ISSIE - Make exercise in space more fun!

by Michael and Laura Doyle
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  • This campaign successfully raised
    $1,537 with 23 backers
    on February 14, 2016
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Zero g weakens your body! Living in space means hours a day of exercise. We're using augmented reality to make exercise on ISS more fun!

  Technology, Space

Read about us on NBC News!

Zero gravity is a big problem for space travelers... and there's good news and bad news.

Want to fly in space? Explore different worlds? Leave the Earth’s gravity behind? Space travel is exciting and soon humans will be going farther and staying off Earth longer than ever before.

But space is really tough on your body! Without the force of Earth's gravity pulling on them, your muscles get weaker and your bones lose density. The more time you spend in space, the worse it gets. This is one of the biggest challenges facing human spaceflight, especially long-duration missions like going to Mars.

The good news is: there is an answer! The bad news is: it's exercise. Lots and lots of exercise. Astronauts on the International Space Station spend two hours a day on average, just to keep up.

Exercise on ISS... today.

Some people love exercise and can't get enough. But even the most dedicated will get bored with the same routine every day. Wouldn't it be great if we had something to make exercise more fun, more engaging and more effective?

Make that exercise time fun - with ISSIE!

Enter ISSIE. ISSIE -- International Space Station Interesting Exercise -- is a gaming system for exercising on the gym machines of the International Space Station. We want to help astronauts on ISS make the most of the time they spend keeping their bodies healthy.

Astronauts will put on augmented reality goggles and choose from a library of games made for the equipment they're using. They'll interact with a holographic environment in the real space around them.

Imagine... instead of just riding a bike, you can be riding a bike to escape an erupting volcano. Or, instead of jogging in place on a treadmill, you're jogging across the surface of Mars.

Our vision for ISSIE includes multiplayer possibilities. People on the ground could race head-to-head with people in orbit.

ISSIE can do more than help space travelers' bodies: increased fun  can help reduce the stress of long-duration spaceflight. And as the distance from Earth increases, so does the need. What if an astronaut on the way to Mars could bike along a beach in California or take a jog through their neighborhood back home?

Brainchild of a 9-year old

Laura, working on some great ideas...

The idea for ISSIE sprouted from the 2015 International SpaceApps Challenge Hackathon. I spent the weekend on a hacker team and got to hear people from NASA talk about the big challenges facing the journey to Mars. I was eager to tell my 9-year old daughter Laura what I'd learned from astronaut Cady Coleman about the importance of exercise (see the video below). Laura's brain sparked: "exercise + fun." And that was the beginning.

This is bigger than astronauts having fun...

By the time Laura grows up, the space frontier will be open to more people than ever before. As humanity extends life beyond Earth, we will need a solution to the effects of long exposure to microgravity and low gravity. ISSIE puts us one step closer to a spacefaring civilization.

And it's not just about space. Research and innovation for up there find lots of uses down here. ISSIE could help fight the obesity epidemic by making people on the ground enjoy getting the exercise they need to stay fit. 

What we're building in this campaign

The possibilities of using augmented reality to enhance the experience of exercise is huge. We're starting with the basics.

Our goal is to build a proof-of-concept system and demo it to an astronaut. After the demo is proven, we will engage NASA and JPL for research trials on the benefits of ISSIE and pursue further funding.

The ISS has an exercise bike (CEVIS), a treadmill (COLBERT) and a resistance device (ARED). We plan to build our first game for the CEVIS. We will modify an ordinary bike to be ridden like the CEVIS (handle grips are behind you and there is no seat!) and to send feedback about the pedaling speed of the rider to a computer that interfaces with the augmented reality headset.

The augmented reality headset we plan to use is the Microsoft Hololens. The first game we will program will be simple, such as pedaling fast enough to escape an erupting volcano. The exact nature of the game will be determined as we explore the possibilities of the platform.

To ensure the game feels right for the physical space on ISS in which it will be played, we plan to build a 7' x 7' x 7' testing stage that will serve as a mockup of the ISS interior. 

These basic steps will lay the foundation for building a library of games that could be used on ISS, on Earth and beyond.

The Hololens and why we like it

The Hololens is cool! Microsoft's new augmented reality device allows the user to interact with 3D holograms while still being aware of their surroundings, unlike virtual reality headsets. This can help prevent disorientation. It also allows interaction with game objects without a controller.

JPL and NASA have sent the Hololens to ISS. This will give NASA a way to test the value of augmented reality on the space station and the Hololens product in particular. By using the Hololens, our proof-of-concept will use something NASA already understands.

We have submitted an application to Microsoft to be among the first to obtain a developer's edition of the Hololens, which will be shipped starting in the first quarter of 2016.

We've spoken with the team at JPL who are working on the ISS Hololens project. We've also been in contact with astronaut Cady Coleman to get a real astronaut's thoughts on games.

Team members

Laura and Mike getting ready to stargaze on Mauna Kea

The ISSIE team, getting ready to stargaze on Mauna Kea.

On the right is Laura Doyle. She's the 9-year old CFO of our family - Chief Fun Officer. She is a two-year veteran of FIRST Junior Lego League and started programming when she was 7. She is a skilled researcher and interviewer, having conducted interviews with a volcanologist, an astrophysicist and an astronaut as part of her FIRST projects. She also loves being active! This year, Laura was awarded the Presidential Fitness Award.

On the left is me. I'm Michael Doyle, Laura’s dad, a technology manager and developer with a lifelong love of space, newly rekindled by Laura’s interests. The 2015 International SpaceApps Hackathon taught me that anyone can make a difference in helping humanity reach for new worlds. Now I'm bringing my 20 years of experience developing technology solutions to bear on mankind’s next steps toward the stars.

Get connected!

First and foremost, fund us!

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  Budget Breakdown

$6,000 covers the cost of a Microsoft Hololens, a license for Unity (the programming platform for Hololens games), an exercise bike and the hardware to modify it to capture the rider's moves in the game.

At $8,000, we will be able to build the test environment for ISSIE: a 7' x 7' x 7' mock ISS interior.

At $22,000, we will be able to hire a programmer and a designer to execute the first game.

As a stretch goal, funding at $30,000 would allow us to acquire a treadmill and create a game for it.

  Risks and Challenges

The Microsoft Hololens is not yet in general release. Developer editions are due to ship in the first quarter of 2016 and are prioritized based on application. Our application to obtain a developer's edition may not be approved by Microsoft, which could delay our access to it.

Further, the Hololens may not prove to be suitable for ISSIE and would require us to explore different technologies which are not currently targeted for ISS deployment.

Laura is 9 years old and school comes first! Progress may be slowed by schoolwork during the academic year.

If we don't reach the funding level that allows us to hire implementers, progress will proceed at a much slower rate with a less slick-looking outcome. If we don't reach the level that will allow us to purchase a suitable AR device and license software with which to program, we will not be able to build ISSIE as we conceive it.

To make it to ISS, ISSIE technology would require prioritization and approval by NASA. This, however, is a long term goal and not a risk to this project which is an exploratory proof-of-concept.


  • Project Leader: Michael and Laura Doyle (Individual)
  • Location: Tenafly, NJ, United States
  • Organizer:

    Michael Doyle

    Contact the organizer

ISSIE - Make exercise in space more fun!

Zero g weakens your body! Living in space means hours a day of exercise. We're using augmented reality to make exercise on ISS more fun!