Kent State team competing in NASA spacesuit contest

Hannah Davis Reporter

A team of Kent State students will take part in a competition showing spacesuits to NASA implemented with augmented reality technology.

Augmented reality (AR) superimposes computer-generated images on top of the user’s view of the real world. The popular mobile game Pokémon GO uses AR technology.

The team of Kent State students in the Department of Computer Science’s Advanced Telerobotics Research Lab has been implementing Magic Leap AR technology within a space suit, which they will present in the 2020 NASA Spacesuit User Interface Technologies for Students competition in April.

Kent State’s team has been selected among the top 10 teams to show their suit to a group of astronauts and engineers at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Irvin Cardenas, a Ph.D student studying computer science spoke for the team’s emotions as they began to put the finishing touches on the suit.

“We’re really excited. We’ve been working on the project since December and having the opportunity to even present something to NASA engineers is a dream come true,” Cardenas said.

To produce the textile components of the suit, the team recruited a team member from the Fashion School.

Michelle Kolazc, who is pursuing a master’s degree in fashion industry studies, collaborated on a previous project with Cardenas.

Along with other team members, they fused elements of fashion and technology to function together in space.

“[Astronauts] could wear the suit while sending robots into high impact situations. The suit mimics muscle movements and allows robots to be controlled with high precision,” Cardenas said.

With AR, astronauts could do things like look at a rover and immediately know what repairs need to be made.

The experimentation process in designing the code for Magic Leap, suit and circuitry was a learning curve for the team.

“There were lots of problems, but we’ve been amazing at troubleshooting and working out the problems with the AR code,” Kolazc said.

Magic Leap’s software crashed several times during the demonstration, but the team swiftly recalibrated the operating system, which made the technology run smoothly again.

Hannah Davis is a sciences and research reporter. Contact her at [email protected].