Virtual Environment Technology in Training
Virtual Environment (VE) technology has the potential to provide an intuitive human-computer interface of unprecedented power. Since 1990, the Software Technology Branch (STB) of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, in cooperation with the University of Houston-Downtown, has been exploring the use of this technology for training, mission planning, and mission rehearsal as a adjunct to ongoing work in Advanced Training Technologies. Virtual Environments can “place” an individual into any scenario that can be copied or imagined. Thus, VEs have the potential to reduce cost and increase the availability of training that relies on expensive and often unique simulators. The STB’s principal objective is the integration of VEs with its mature Intelligent Computer-Aided Training (ICAT) technology.
Simulations of elements of Space Station Freedom and Space Shuttle payloads (such as the IntellSat captured during STS-49) have been developed to test the technology’s efficacy as a training tool and to identify specific research and development needs to improve training performance. During the latter half of 1993 a complete training environment for the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) repair and maintenance mission (STS-61) was built and integrated with a limited capability ICAT system. This VE was used to train over 100 members of the HST flight team—by far, the largest use of this emerging technology for a “real” application.
The results of this training activity have demonstrated that VE technology, especially when coupled with an ICAT system, can have a positive impact on task performance, while reducing training costs and increasing training availability. The STB has also demonstrated the ability to share Virtual Environments over long distances for collective training and concurrent engineering (with NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center and the U.S. Army). Additional activities include the creation of software tools that support the rapid development and maintenance of virtual environments by training personnel and the development of a Virtual Physics Laboratory as an educational “spinoff” of this NASA activity.
KeywordsVirtual Reality Virtual Environment Hubble Space Telescope Simulator Sickness Training Scenario
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