AR application for spacecraft design and assembly.


Tesseract is an AR application that supplements NASA JPL Ops Lab’s Protospace and helps NASA engineers to easily navigate the CAD model hierarchy in augmented reality using the Microsoft HoloLens throughout the spacecraft design and assembly process.

Collaboration with JPL at NASA
Collaboration with HoloLens at Microsoft
Scientific American (Article) (Article)
Tech Stack

Unity 3D


Adobe CC

Axure RP


Charmaine Sum

(Product Designer, AR Testing) 

Olivia Cabello

(Product Designer, User Testing) 

Hasan Ahmed Ansari

(UX Designer, AR Researcher) 

Anqi Zhao

(Three.js Developer) 


4 months


Microsoft HoloLens

Promo Video

(Some parts of this video contain excerpts from NASA's royalty-free video library)

Project Overview

What is Protospace?

Protospace is an AR application developed by NASA JPL Ops Lab for Microsoft HoloLens to offer their engineers a more intuitive and efficient method for the design and assembly processes behind the creation of a spacecraft.


While Protospace already includes a feature that allows users to select different parts of the spacecraft within the file hierarchy, users have a multitude of problems as they navigate through different levels of the hierarchy.

The ultimate goal with this project is to build an AR prototype that prevents possible errors in the spacecraft creation and assembly processes that are irreversible, and to help users easily understand and navigate through the file hierarchy of the CAD model without getting lost along the way.

Initial Research
Target Audience

Mechanical Engineers at at the NASA JPL Ops Lab

Interview Objectives
  • Understanding the status quo

  • Defining the issues currently experienced by the users

  • Outlining the ideal user flow to maximize user performance

Persona Types for User Interviews
  • Professional Engineers with AR Experience

  • Professional Engineers without AR Experience

  • Mechanical Engineering Students/Interns

Interview Highlights
  • Easy access to the work of teammates is needed

  • A uniform filing system is needed

  • The part directory needs a better hierarchical system

Concept Mapping
Initial Sketches
Initial Prototyping
System Diagram
Prototyping Phase 2 (Gestures)
User Journey
Tesseract Prototype V1
User Testing 1
Color Coding
  • Mechanical engineers are not accustomed to it.

  • Would prefer symbols over colors.

  • The accompanying model of the Mars Rover makes it easier to understand.

  • Prefer horizontal orientation where engineers use the up-down arrows to navigate through the files.

Tesseract Prototype V2
User Testing 2 (Industrial Engineers)
User Feedback
Color Coding
  • Industrial engineers find color coding to be the easiest way of separating categories.

  • They think symbols would be too confusing and hard to remember.

  • Find the small cube unnecessary.

  • Would like to see a shortcut to every color at all times.

  • Prefer horizontal orientation for browsing through the items within the same category.

  • Vertical orientation for browsing through different layers in the hierarchy.

  • Need an indicator for which level in the hierarchy is currently showing.

Tesseract Prototype V3
Action Points After Last Iteration
  • Why a cube? Why not a more fluid polygon?

  • How can the user decipher where they are in terms of the hierarchy?

  • Color Coding: Color could be used to block out large areas that other engineering teams are working on.

User Journey V2
Tesseract Prototype V4 (Three.js)
User Testing 3

Up to Down Navigation:

  • Feels natural when going from parent-child file.

  • Reiterates that the files are not on the same level.


  • Use Legend (images) as key.

  • May consider a flat shape if there are many files.

Final User Journey Storyboards
Professional Mechanical Engineer with AR experience
Professional Mechanical Engineer without AR experience
Mechanical Engineering Intern/Student

Events, Achievements & Press

Scientific American Article
press1-1.jpg Article
Other Projects
Other Links