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.
Bringing the vision of immersive architecture to space
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, disorientation. So, 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.
ISS was chosen as the space habitat for installing AstroPod, because of -
Can be integrated with multiple functions
Fully immersive with minimum intrusion
Can be tested with more accuracy
AstroPod can be tested on different missions before its use in long-duration spaceflight.
NASA Deep Space Transport
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.
Minimum Visual Obstruction
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
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
Multiplicity of Functions
Recreation in Columbus
Exercise in COLBERT
Dining in Unity
Ultra-short throw projector
placed inside pod
Integration with ISS
Off-gassing of material
Detailed deployment mechanism
Ambient lighting synchronization
Waist restraint for gravity
Considering the dimensions of emergency egress standards, and clearance available in the ISS interior, the AstroPod sized accordingly.
The AstroPod can operate in two modes: with one or two projector for partially or fully immersive experience, depending on energy availability.
Air Flow Systems
Vents were designed on top of the Pod to exhaust the CO2 build-up.