MARS: Astronaut’s Sentence of Isolation

Simulated living quarters on Mars (left) compared to solitary confinement (right)

We don’t tell our entertainment clients that hire us to design adventures on Mars about our work exploring real-life on Mars.  The difference between fantasy and reality is so stark, it just may kill all of the enthusiasm of their project.  However for us, the challenge to help alleviate the devastating effects of isolation in deep space exploration will make this one of our most exciting projects. It is pioneering work that will not only help astronauts, but the millions of earthlings that also suffer from isolation in hospitals, on deployment, with disabilities, or that are incarcerated. Eventually, it will change the way we create the next generation of Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR) experience. It will push our creative development of the InterPlay of story, play and games to all new levels of importance to redefine education and entertainment as we know it now. Innovation is always stimulated by life’s challenges. Isolation is one of the great unsolved problems of deep space exploration that will have devastating effects on even the toughest explorer.

Life on Mars can be a sentence of isolation that has similar effects of being in solitary confinement, society’s most severe punishment before the death sentence. In the figure above, we compare NASA’s HI-SEAS (left) Simulated living quarters on MARS compared with Solidary Confinment (right). With the increase of years of sensory and social deprivation from isolation, our brave explorers face an increasing potential of depression and decline of performance.  Both the human and financial cost is irreplaceable. The most difficult challenge is with addressing the Asynchronous Communication challenge, which is the elimination of real-time communication. It will take 20 minutes for communication to get from Mars to earth, then another 20 minutes to return the message.  When our society can not even wait a few seconds of silent airtime on the radio, television or internet, think about the detachment that will set in between an astronaut and family members.  Earth life is filled with not only the abundance of activities with friends and family, but the endless wonder of our natural and manufactured life on earth. Waiting 40 minutes for a response from an relative is a real kill-joy for any sense of human connection.

Our pioneering work with NASA education and Life Participation Approach to Aphasia (LPAA) has brought us to exploring this issue of isolation in space.  The same challenge of engaging families with education, including those who have lost their ability to communicate due to Aphasia (the lost of language due to a stroke) seek similar solutions. The Space Florida organization has awarded Simiosys an economic innovation grant to help bring these innovations to the marketplace for the sake of deep space exploration. It will be advancing the work of NASA’s ANSIBLE project to develop tools that address isolation in both space and on earth.

With 10 years of experience of bringing Mixed Reality advancements to the marketplace with global entertainment and technology companies, Simiosys possess unique experience and interdisciplinary teams to take this technology to uncharted territory. Our teams include both Experience Architects with over 30 years experience with VR and the fresh young talents of the Virtual Native (those who have grown up with Virtual Worlds). Its not the Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR) that excites our team, but it is the testing of the full human potential within Virtual Worlds. Our use of emerging engagement strategies that leverage the InterPlay of story, play and games are able to push that human potential through experiential social learning and transdisciplinary collaboration.

As a human species, we are always seeking endless novelty in experience, but not without the  familiar intimacy of human connection and social engagement.  This will be the future measure of success in the $30 billion VR/AR industry. We don’t wish to keep our emerging research results a secret, but share them to help all of humanity to advance on earth and beyond.