Microsoft and NASA have developed an AI that prevents tears in clothing in space

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Microsoft and NASA have developed an AI that prevents tears in clothing in space

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Gloves are an integral part of astronauts. Photo by NASA.

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The distance separating the Earth from Mars is 102 million kilometers, while the Moon is 384,400 kilometers. A catastrophe at such a distance could be fatal for astronauts. To minimize any flaws, Microsoft trained an artificial intelligence (AI) that detects flaws in suits.

Suits, helmets and gloves are essential garments for astronauts to perform their space explorations and face a series of difficulties such as temperature variations, rising radiation and vacuum.

By using them for a long time and constantly, the garments can wear and tear by friction. A small leak in its structure can lead to physical problems that are very difficult to solve far from Earth.

Because of this situation, NASA must photograph the spacesuit gloves during and after each walk and send them for inspection. From Earth, NASA scientists check photos for damage and then send the results to astronauts on the ISS (International Space Station).

The system checks for possible leaks and cracks.  Microsoft photos.

The system checks for possible leaks and cracks. Microsoft photos.

The drawback is the delay of the round trip. A “Hello” from space to Earth takes up to 20 minutes to get there, and vice versa. Which suggests that communication takes about 40 minutes. There is too much waiting time for the astronaut, who must determine whether his gloves are suitable for the mission.

To solve this, a Microsoft team working with NASA scientists and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) engineers is forming a system that uses AI and a catalog of gloves.

“What we’ve shown is that we can perform AI and processing in the ISS environment and analyze the gloves in real time,” said Ryan Campbell, software engineer at Microsoft Azure Space.

To create the “onboard glove monitor,” the NASA team stored new gloves in good condition and gloves worn on spacewalks and ground training.

In turn, they photographed the gloves that showed damage to label specific types of wear: Areas where the outer layer of rubber -coated silicone begins to peel or areas where the Vectran coating is compromised.

This was done using the Azure Cognitive Services Custom Service: NASA engineers opened the glove images in a web browser and clicked on damage samples.

Training

This information was used to create the Microsoft Azure cloud base and the results were compared to actual damage reports and images from NASA. The furniture generated a probability score for the possibility of damage to a particular area on the glove.

“Because we’re literally next to the astronaut when we’re doing the processing, we can run our tests faster than the images can be sent back to Earth.”

Gloves are an essential piece of the suit.  Photo by NASA.

Gloves are an essential piece of the suit. Photo by NASA.

At the end of the spacewalk, the crew takes pictures of the astronauts ’gloves as they remove their spacesuits from the airlock.

These images were immediately sent to HPE’s Spaceborne Computer-2 aboard the ISS, where the Glove Analyzer quickly searched for signs of damage to space. If errors are reported, a report will be immediately sent back to Earth for review by NASA teams.

Currently, the damage analysis tool developed by NASA, Microsoft and HPE is in the testing phase. This means it runs analytics in gloves, but it’s not used to make critical security decisions.

Although prior to this project, NASA was looking at other ways to expand the technology to more areas where it could look to find damage to other critical components, such as docking adapters.

In addition, it is possible that the Microsoft HoloLens 2 could help astronauts quickly perform a visual scan for damage to gloves, or even facilitate assisted repairs on complex machinery.

Source: Clarin

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