HTC Launched Vive Focus 3 VR Headset To Improve Astronauts’ Mental Health

14th Nov 2023
HTC Launched Vive Focus 3 VR Headset To Improve Astronauts’ Mental Health

HTC is heading to space to test the Vive Focus 3 VR headset’s ability to alleviate the mental stress astronauts experience. 

Helping astronauts deal with the mental strain of space

On 2 November, HTC company announced that on a planned NASA resupply launch, an amended microgravity-friendly version of the Vive Focus 3 VR headset would be heading to the International Space Station. It will stay in space for a month for critical testing. The launch was conducted on 7 November.

As NASA states, the reason is to discover how effective this headset will be in helping to ease the mental health troubles that come while working in space due to the “lack of privacy, high and variable workloads, and separation from loved ones.”

Danish astronaut Andreas Mogensen was chosen to get a special headset. He’ll use it to see if virtual reality can make people feel less homesick. During his 6-8 month mission, Mogensen will use the headset regularly and write down how it makes him feel. He can also watch five videos from a 360-degree perspective for a better experience.

Andreas Mogensen ISS
Credit: NASA

The tweaked headset has addressed former roll-out issues

HTC has partnered up with XRHealth, a virtual reality therapy business, as they’re working on a “virtual assistance mental balance initiative by Nord-Space ApS, the aeronautics research and development company. Their objective is to meet the unique needs of astronauts.

HTC believes that the revived Vive Focus 3 will ensure astronauts don’t lose their lunch or become disoriented, as was the case with previous attempts when using VR in space. The lack of gravity required to give the headset its directional frame of reference ended up becoming nauseatingly out of synchronisation with the user’s movements. 

The HTC Vive Focus 3, ISS
Credit: Danish Aerospace Company / Nord-Space ApS

Despite this, it’s not too different to the Vive Focus sold on Earth

AVP of Enterprise Solutions at HTC, Thomas Dexmier, has confirmed that the Vive Focus 3 Mogensen is not too different from the headset you can buy yourself. There have been some required power management amendments and a few software changes, but apart from that it’s very similar to the one sold here on Earth.

The software adjustments mentioned have, of course, been to address the spatial orientation issue. The company has done this by tying its tracking algorithms to one of the controllers, which is stationary and tracked via the cameras and the proximity sensor inside of the helmet. This provides the Vive headset with the relative positioning it requires to match the wearer’s motion. At the same time, the user can use the other controller or eye-tracking to navigate the menus. 

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