We all know how astronauts train for microgravity by hanging out in swimming pools and taking rides in vomit comets, but those aren't the only technological tricks NASA has to bring space to Earth. It's also got a wild DIY virtual reality rig that turns a room into an ISS holodeck.
to visit the rig at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston and tried on NASA's setup. The bulky 720p headset is home-made, built in a NASA engineer's own garage since the Oculus Rift development kit available at the time wasn't hi-res enough for NASA's needs. Inside the helmet, astronauts in training will find a full model of the ISS rendered with impeccable attention to detail so that the VRstronauts can get a realistic idea of where things are, what their workstations will look like, and how to get around.
But the most crazy thing about NASA's VR system isn't its headset; it's the controllers. Before jacking into the simulation, trainees put on cybergloves. These don't track movement all the way down to finger movements, but they do let you pick up and drop things in simulated cyberspace.
Then, there's "Charlotte," a chunk of metal connected to eight different robotically controlled cables. By precisely controlling the tension of the cables, Charlotte can simulate the way that gigantic objects in space are weightless but still have pesky mass and inertia. With the goggles on, and hands on Charlotte, astronauts can get the full experience of trying to maneuver giant panels while floating in space outside the ISS.
The only way you could really hope to get a more in-depth experience here on Earth is if you started to combine technologies and maybe put someone in VR in a pool. So far NASA has no plans to do that because it's hard but it would also be awesome so hopefully they'll come around.
You can to find out more about NASA's wild setup.