Ed White, who on June 3, 1965, became the first American to “walk” in space. On his left arm is strapped an Omega Speedmaster. NASA
For as long as there have been astronauts in space, there have been wristwatches accompanying them, with the most famous being the Omega Speedmaster worn by NASA’s astronauts. Now, with the age of the smartwatch upon us, astronauts may be strapping something new to their wrists.
And the smartwatch would offer more than the watch, stopwatch and counter functions of the manual-wind Speedmaster, as classy as that is. NASA has posted a contest to Freelancer requesting a smartwatch app that could be used by astronauts in space, with a reward of $1,500 for the winning app.
“We are interested in the emerging world of smartwatch technology and are looking to leverage this technology to create a smartwatch app that could be helpful to astronauts,” the NASA listing reads. “The challenge is to design the general user interface for smart watch applications for use on the International Space Station.”
The app would be used to display important information to astronauts.
Examples screens of current interfaces used by astronauts, clockwise from top left: the caution display, the ground communications status and the astronaut timeline. NASA
The examples of what should be included in the app include an agenda view of the crew’s Timeline, which they currently view on an iPad or laptop; colour-coded alerts and warnings; communication status, which indicates whether the ISS is currently able to communicate with Earth; and timers that will allow astronauts to time their procedures and activities.
These functions should be able to direct an astronaut’s attention to the information they need to increase efficiency, provide feedback for the astronaut’s actions, and fit within a small, smartwatch-sized screen.
And the functions should, the brief states, be available within a single app, designed to run on the Samsung Gear 2.
Participants don’t actually have to make the app. Instead, they are tasked with designing the app’s user interface, presenting the finished work in the form of image files. It’s probably just as well: Figuring out how astronauts are going to manage touchscreen controls while wearing bulky space gloves could be a bit more challenging.
You can check out the full brief via the NASA Challenge page on Freelancer.