ESA – New SpaceTech applications and services in Digital Twin and Holograms

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This proposed Kick-Start focuses on the following types of immersive technologies and themes: mixed reality, simulation, digital twinning and holograms.

These technologies have been increasingly utilised in recent years for several applications to enhance the users’ experience and provide digital content tailored to the applications. In particular, this topic has become even more relevant since the COVID outbreak, with many businesses using immersive solutions to run simulations, for staff training and inductions courses.

Various interaction methods are employed by these immersive reality technologies to enable interaction with the virtual environments, relying on and benefitting from different types of display technologies, interaction methods and others.

The European Space Agency’s “Immersive Reality” Kick-Start offers support and funding to companies developing services exploiting satellite data and advanced technologies to add value to relevant stakeholders operating in several sectors, such as Healthcare, Education and Virtual Heritage and Training.

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TOPICS OF RELEVANCE

The following topics were identified for the “Immersive Reality” Kick-Start themes:

Mixed Reality 

This is the blending of virtual elements and real world. This can occur either in the real world or in a virtual environment such as a game. In mixed reality, it is possible to interact with and manipulate both physical and virtual items and environments, using next-generation sensing and imaging technologies. This technology can be used in a number of applications in various industries such as education, entertainment and healthcare. For example, a theme park ride can include virtual elements that can interact with the visitors. Mixed Reality allows the user to see and immerse in the world around and even interact with a virtual environment using their own hands.

Simulations

Simulations are useful in a broad spectrum of application domains, ranging from educational games for younger audiences, to collaborative training and simulation environments for industry, or games for entertainment. Gaming involves simulated worlds, while serious gaming – a game designed for a primary purpose other than pure entertainment – simulates real-world scenarios. Simulations can be used to analyse the performance of systems and to test the implementation of new ideas. Engineers and technicians make use of simulations across a variety of industries to test products, systems, processes, and concepts.

Digital Twin 

It is a precise digital visualisation of a physical object such as a product or infrastructure component. Digital Twins are typically used to display information about the physical object collected with systems and sensors. Applications can be found in several sectors such as industrial products, infrastructure, healthcare and energy. The concept of the Digital Twin technology is based on three major pillars i.e. a physical object or device that exists in the real space, a virtual product that exists in the digital world and the bridge that connects these two pillars that help send and receive data and information between them.

Holograms

It is a structure that uses light diffraction to make an image appear in three dimensions, that is a 3D projection in space and visible to everyone. Products, objects, and animated sequences three-dimensionally can be displayed enabling real objects or animations to appear to float completely freely in space. In the last decade, advanced hardware and software technology has been developed to produce a system that digitally projects 3D aerial images and streaming content in front of the display without the need of special 3D glasses.

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The role of space technologies in the aforementioned domain could include (but are not limited to) the following: 

Satellite Navigation (SatNav)

  • It is the main source of geo-referenced location data.
  • It enables tracking the location of the user and to geo-locate different objects in the Mixed Reality (e.g. obstacles a ship/plane may encounter).
  • It provides positioning information of users navigating augmented reality applications and manages their interactions with geo-located objects therein.

Satellite Earth Observation (SatEO)

  • Geographical Information Systems (GIS) allows better geographical analysis and compelling visualisations. These can be used, for example, in creating urban simulations.
  • Satellite Earth Observation provides images taken from space that could be used to help creative immersive worlds.
  • It allows the creation of a 3D city, landscape and Digital Elevation Models.

Satellite Communications (SatCom)

  • Provides the connectivity for the transmission of data from remote locations where there is no terrestrial network enhancing robustness and resilience or in case of terrestrial network failures.
  • Enables broadband internet, voice over IP, real-time video, M2M in remote areas.

5G networks including terrestrial and satellite components will have a key role for delivering the high amount of data required by the immersive reality applications with the required low latency, eventually also in real time (support to operations).

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WHAT WE LOOK FOR

Kick-Start activities explore the business opportunity and the technical viability of new applications and services that exploit one or more space assets (e.g. Satellite Communications, Satellite Navigation, Earth Observation, Human Space Flight Technology). This call for Kick-Start activities aims to support the development of innovative space-based applications which could foster the implementation of these advanced technologies in different sectors.

HOW TO APPLY

  1. Register by completing the online questionnaire on ESA-STAR Registration (this provides for the minimum ‘light registration’).
  2. Write your proposal and obtain a Letter of Support from your National Delegation, if needed (see Authorisation of Funding section below).
  3. Submit your proposal via ESA-STAR Tendering by the deadline.

Application Deadline: 3 June 2021

Source: ESA

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