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IIT-Madras, Indian Space Research Organisation Collaborate on Extended Reality Tech

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-Madras) to collaborate on extended reality (XR) applications and other technologies for the Indian Human Spaceflight Programme.

According to a statement by IIT-Madras, the Institute will develop a training module for an Indian Spaceflight Programme using augmented reality/virtual reality/mixed reality (AR/VR/MR). Using the technologies created at IIT-Madras’ newly-established eXperiential Technology Innovation Centre (XTIC), the ISRO will promote research and development in the field of extended reality.

This XTIC is India’s first research and product innovation centre for XR and haptics technology, a transdisciplinary centre encompassing several fields of engineering, medicine, psychology, and arts. As XR is highly interdisciplinary, innovations in this field need a confluence of minds from different fields, the statement said.

While most of the research labs around the world are focusing on either software or hardware components of XR, the centre in IIT-Madras will focus on the fundamentals of XR- human factors, particularly perception and illusion, pioneering a new field of perceptual engineering and perceptual algebra.

ISRO developed the Indian Human Spaceflight Programme in 2007 to create the technology needed to launch crewed orbital spacecraft into low Earth orbit. M. Manivannan, Principle Investigator at XTIC-IIT Madras, stated that XR technologies have the potential to add value in many aspects of the human spaceflight programme specifically in shortening the design cycle and simulating the space environment. The team will start with developing models of physiological systems as well as design optimisation studies.

Apart from developing XR technologies for the human spaceflight programme, the XTIC will also carry out technology training for concerned Human Space Flight Centre (HSFC) engineers and help establish an XR/VR laboratory at HSFC. The statement outlined the key objectives of the collaboration:

  • Modelling and simulating human physiology as well as space systems
  • Outreach activities
  • Visualisation and optimisation of design architecture
  • Training ISRO scientists to develop their own XR systems

Furthermore, the XTIC has established a consortium of start-ups and industries in the field of XR and haptics in India called Cave. The ecosystem led by XTIC will be utilised for several applications ranging from outreach and education of the human spaceflight programme to digital twins.

In 2022, the global extended reality market size was valued at US$ 35 billion. It is expected to reach around US$ 345 billion by 2030. Countries around the world are making significant strides in the field. For instance, researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have created the HaptGlove, a lightweight, untethered haptic glove for virtual environments. It provides a more realistic and authentic sense of touch and movement when interacting with virtual objects, enhancing the overall immersive experience in VR.

As OpenGov Asia reported, HaptGlove uses proprietary software developed by the NUS research team to achieve a visual-haptic delay of fewer than 20 milliseconds. This is faster than conventional haptic gloves and provides a near-real-time user experience. The latest prototype is also more comfortable to wear, weighing only 250 grams, much lighter than commercially available haptic gloves that weigh over 450 grams.

It enables users to interact with the virtual world in a more natural and realistic way, providing an unobtrusive and immersive experience in virtual reality. It features five pairs of haptic feedback modules, one for each finger, which are controlled wirelessly to sense the virtual object in terms of shape, size, and stiffness.

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