NASA: Games can play major role in space exploration

NASA: Games can play major role in space exploration
Craig Chapple

By Craig Chapple

April 15th 2013 at 12:45PM

Medium can support efforts in communication and robotics, says JPL's Jeff Norris

Developers and games can play major roles in space exploration, says NASA’s Jeff Norris.

In a new interview with Develop, the manager of the planning and execution systems section at the Jet Propulsion Lab said games can play a part in communicating the space agency’s missions and using game technologies to control robots.

He added that games had particularly become a very important medium for NASA’s ambitions to share its discoveries and space exploration with the world.

“There are two major roles for games in space exploration,” said Norris.

“One is as a medium for communication and sharing our missions. Part of NASA’s core mission is to share our exploration with the world. Games have turned out to be a very important medium for doing that. But then, of course, the second application is using the gaming technologies themselves to control robots in space exploration.”

Norris used Kinect and Leap Motion as examples of game technologies that could be used to assist with space exploration by making its robotics systems more approachable and easier to control for its engineers. He said that such natural interfaces helped improved the efficiency and effectiveness of its operators.

NASA recently showed off the potential of gaming technologies mixed with robotics by controlling a towering hexapod robot called Athelte, based in California, using motion control device Leap Motion on stage at GDC 2013.

“There’s an art to games’ interaction systems, and it’s beyond technology,” he said. “It’s that art of design and interaction, and how to teach somebody to do something quickly. We can leverage that too for our work.”

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory task lead Victor Luo added: “The other point is that these are devices that consumers are quite comfortable with, so they are already trained up to use controllers such as a PlayStation or Xbox controller.”

You can read the full feature covering how developers and space agencies can work together here.