AstroPod

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Introduction:

  • AstroPod is a virtual reality pod for the International Space Station (ISS). It was a project in collaboration with the Mediated Atmospheres group (in the Responsive Environments group) and the Space Exploration Initiative at the MIT Media Lab. 

  • Mediated Atmospheres is an immersive workspace where different sensorial qualities of space like light, sound, smell, are automated according to the mood of the user.

  • My role was to incorporate the same vision for space habitats like the ISS.

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Bringing the vision of immersive architecture to space

 Mediated Atmospheres

AstroPod

Pre- Design Research

Psychological problems in spaceflight that Virtual Reality (VR) can solve

Why VR Pod in the ISS?

Deducing guidelines for projection systems from existing lighting Systems on the ISS 

Why do we need a pod for VR? Why not a headset?

  • Prolonged use of VR headsets can cause dizziness, disorientationSo, the prescribed continuous usage is 0.5 hour. 

  • In the graph below, showing 16 sunrises and 16 sunsets on the ISS,  we see half-hour is too little a time to cause significant psychological impact.

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ISS was chosen as the space habitat for installing AstroPod,  because of -

  • Easy deployability

  • Can be integrated with multiple functions

  • Fully immersive with minimum intrusion

  • Can be tested with more accuracy

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AstroPod can be tested on different missions before its use in long-duration spaceflight.

Earth Analog

ISS

NASA Deep Space Transport

Design inspiration

Do you know if you listened into a conch shell, closing your eyes you can hear the ocean?

 

Inspired by that serene sense of connectedness, AstroPod was designed to remind the astronauts on long-duration spaceflights that they are still connected to the blue planet they call home.

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Design moodboard

Functional Moodboard

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Aesthetic Moodboard

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Design parameters

Microgravity Ergonomics

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Vision Angle

Minimum Visual Obstruction

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Projector capabilities

Easy Deployability

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Form Finding

Sketching

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AutoCAD

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Rhino

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Learnings through this process -

  • Horizontal faceted geometry cause less visual obstruction than vertically faceted wireframe

  • Vision angle and throw of projector decides diameter of pod

  • Teardrop shape allows leg movement, hence allowing future provision for waist restraints for gravity simulation

  • Type of projector decides airflow systems, position of projector, shadow formation, energy used, strain on eye
     

Final Design

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Front View

Plan View

  • The sides are tilted keeping perpendicular to line of sight in neutral body posture

  • Lesser surface area kept with 60 degree vision angle for back face

  • Asymmetry helps in orientation

  • Cutout does not have rigid edge for flexibility 

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Multiplicity of Functions

Recreation in Columbus

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Exercise in COLBERT

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Dining in Unity

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Fabrication

Fabric Models

geometry test

1:10 scale

1:4 scale

1:1 scale

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Paper Models

concept test

geometry test

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Final Protoype

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Next Steps

Ultra-short throw projector

placed inside pod

Expansive/ Contractive

AstroPod

Touch-based projection

Integration with ISS

Integration with

exercise equipment

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  • Off-gassing of material

  • Airflow systems

  • Power usage

  • Detailed deployment mechanism

  • Location-specific constraints 

  • Ambient lighting synchronization

  • Opaque pod

  • Waist restraint for gravity

  • Tactile senses

  • Spatial senses

Subsystems

Emergency Egress

Considering the dimensions of emergency egress standards, and clearance available in the ISS interior, the AstroPod sized accordingly.

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Energy Efficiency

The AstroPod can operate in two modes: with one or two projector for partially or fully immersive experience, depending on energy availability.

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Air Flow Systems

Vents were designed on top of the Pod to exhaust the CO2 build-up.

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