Virtual Reality studied as potential communication tool for Mars Exploration Future Missions to mitigate effects of isolation in astronauts

4 min readOct 13, 2016

NASA-funded project sends holographic recordings of real humans in Virtual Reality to crew members of 12-month Simulated Mars Isolation Study

October 13 2016 — As NASA prepares for its Journey to Mars in mid 2030’s, an experiment recently concluded in a remote University of Hawaii Mars simulation site to study the effects of long term isolation on an international team of six scientists, and the potential for virtual reality as an asynchronous communication tool. In a first of its kind pilot, the subjects at the facility called HI-SEAS have received holographic recordings of astronaut Buzz Aldrin and vocal artist/comedian Reggie Watts, which when viewed in virtual reality, simulate true presence and could help mitigate the feeling of isolation.

The research, led by R&D consulting company SIFT (Smart Information Flow Technologies), is enabled by holographic software company 8i, which developed proprietary technology to bring photorealistic holograms of humans into virtual and augmented reality experiences.

The Mars simulation study began in August 2015 where subjects were isolated in planetary surface exploration-like conditions and concluded their isolation on August 31, 2016. The goal of the experiment is to study the impact of virtual reality to combat sensory and social monotony.

“Scientific studies in behavioral health research are vital in supporting our astronauts in future Long Duration Exploration Missions,” said Dr. Lauren B. Leveton, Ph.D. Element Scientist, Behavioral Health and Performance, Human Research Program, Biomedical Research and Environmental Sciences Division/SK, NASA JSC.

Mars simluation hab in Hawaii where six people spent 12 months in isolation. Credit: Sian Proctor/NASA HI-SEAS

“It has long been understood and empirically supported that humans do not respond well psychologically to long periods of confinement, and one of our goals at SIFT is to study how technologies can be used to counter negative effects,” said Peggy Wu, senior research scientist at SIFT. “We believe the way virtual reality can capture your senses can help astronauts feel more connected to Earth, and offer ways to combat the sensory monotony that result from such prolonged durations of isolation. The preliminary results of this ongoing study has been promising and we’re looking forward to extensive data analysis.”

Buzz Aldrin as a 3D hologram in a volumetric VR experience coming soon to Time Inc’s LIFE VR

“Holograms provide a powerful interface for human communication as it gives the viewer the ability to connect with another person in VR or AR as if they were in the same room,” said Linc Gasking, cofounder and CEO of 8i.

“We’re thrilled to partner with NASA and Sift on this pilot and honored to build an archive of inspirational holographic messages for future Mars mission astronauts, starting with Buzz Aldrin and Reggie Watts. Our team at 8i is incredibly inspired by the potential use of our technology to give future Mars astronauts the ability to connect with loved ones back home,” Gasking added.

The first recordings of Buzz Aldrin and Reggie Watts delivered to the Mars simulation crew in Hawaii will be available to the general public soon as part of VR experiences that will be distributed by Time Inc.’s LIFE VR. NASA and Sift plan to continue the effort with the next group of scientists going into the HI-SEAS in 2017, with new holographic messages from notable participants recorded by 8i.

About 8i
8i is a technology startup on mission to give people the best way to connect with each other and express themselves through holograms. We provide the easiest way to create, mix and experience human holograms that look real and feel as if they were in the same room. Our proprietary technology transforms video from an array of cameras into a photo-realistic hologram of a human that can be viewed from any angle, on any device for x-realities (virtual, augmented or mixed reality). Founded in May 2014, 8i is based in Wellington, New Zealand, and Los Angeles. Learn more at

About Smart Information Flow Technologies

Smart Information Flow Technologies LLC conducts research and development in Human Factors and Artificial Intelligence across domains ranging from commercial and military flight decks to healthcare to make the information flow between humans and technology better for both sides — more efficient, productive, pleasant, and safe. Learn more at

About All These Worlds
All These Worlds, LLC builds virtual environments and experiences for health, training, and other meaningful applications. It uses the latest research into the benefits that virtual places and avatar use have on people to create highly effective solutions for a broad range of clients.




The easiest way to create and experience volumetric holograms of real people for augmented, virtual, and mixed reality. Visit us at