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NASA Intra Vehicular Activities Control

Roles Played: Interaction Design, Wireframes, Circuit Design

Astronauts on the International Space Station perform activities that require them to constantly look up instructions and checklists on a laptop in order for successful completion of tasks (such as experiments or repairs within the Station). This is especially cumbersome in zero gravity, since they are required to fix their laptop to a station, and may have to move as far as 10 to 15 feet away to perform mechanical tasks while going through a checklist. This forces them to move back and forth to look at instructions and checklists while performing tasks, causing delays and leading to errors.

As part of a class project, we worked under guidance from Human Factors Engineers in NASA to come up with a wearable control system and User Interface solution to address these issues.

To design a solution, we first identified the major tasks that scientists perform on a frequent basis, and then drew a rough tree of major sub tasks in each of the tasks.

We simplified each of the tasks to their most essential compnents, and prototyped a four action system, whereby each screen would only have a maximum of four actions at any given time. We set about designing an input system and the interaction system for this solution.

We selected two major tasks for prototyping purposes, and mocked up wireframes for the task flow and interactions. An Industrial Designer on the team mocked up some sketches for the wearable hardware. These can be seen in the images above

The above images show the actual device that was built using a combination of conductive fabric sensors and arduino mini based circuit along with a bluetooth transceiver and battery based power supply. The circuitry was layered inside a wearable sleeve-type material with velcro, to allow the user to fix it on standard issue clothing.

The above images show some of the screenshots from the application accompanying the wearable device. It was designed using HTML/CSS/JS running on a Node.js server communicating via bluetooth to the device. The video below, shows the device in action

The project was presented at the Wearable Controls Symposium held at NASA, and received positive feedback especially for the user interface, which was tailored to work using a 3 button control.

Designed by Bala Ganapathi. Typeset in Lato from Google Web Fonts. Uses jquery and the cycle.js plugin by Mike Alsup.