SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – January 13, 2014 – Voxer, a leader in unified real-time voice and instant messaging collaboration, today announced that six crew members spending eight months in isolation as part of NASA’s Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) program will use Voxer exclusively for voice communications with mission control, as well as with friends and family. The project is led by University of Hawaii at Mānoa and funded by NASA.
“The crew at HI-SEAS has been using Voxer to stay in touch with friends and family, and it’s really made a difference in our experience at the habitat,” said Martha Lenio, HI-SEAS Crew Commander. “There’s a big difference between the written word and the human voice when you’re trying to connect with people during eight months ‘away.’ We especially enjoyed it during the holidays. It’s also a preferred method of communication between our chief medical officer and our outside medical support. Voxer has been extremely useful when our e-mail servers have gone down, allowing us to continue communications with our mission support team without breaking the simulation.”
The HI-SEAS project is designed to simulate the conditions under which a team would live during an actual trip to Mars, which could last as long as three years. The dome-shaped habitat in which the crew is housed for the duration of the project is situated in a lava quarry at 8,000 feet above sea level on Maua Loa, closely replicating the Martian landscape. Crew members can only leave the dome fully outfitted in a protective space suit. The mission, which began October 15, 2014, is twice as long as any previously completed at the Hawaii site, and second only to Russia’s Mars500 experiment in total duration.
To simulate the true conditions of radio communications between the Earth and Mars, Voxer developed a custom version of the application, which induces a 20-minute delay between transmission and reception of spoken messages. The 40-minute round-trip-time calls for a change in the way that conversations are structured. Crew members and those on the other end of the line might speak for a few minutes without interruption, rather than just saying “hi,” or “how are you?” before pressing the send button.
“Simulating a mission to Mars, and effectively creating the conditions under which it would be carried out is a real challenge,” said Kim Binstead, HI-SEAS principal investigator and associate professor at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa. “Everything has to be as close as possible to the way it would be on Mars for the results of the program to be valid. The implementation of the Voxer system, the delays it introduces, and the use of the various devices that it supports come very close to that.”
The Voxer application, initially developed to facilitate battlefield communications among soldiers in Afghanistan, is designed to deliver the highest quality and performance in the toughest conditions. Voxer real-time voice with instant messaging can be deployed on almost any device, including cell phones and tablets running iOS or Android and on laptops running OSX or Windows. It also runs over any network, including cell and Wi-Fi. Voxer is currently in use by thousands of businesses and 50 million consumers globally.
“HI-SEAS is an incredibly impressive operation with far-reaching benefits and we are very pleased to be a part of it,” said Irv Remedios, president of Voxer. “This is a milestone project for Voxer that demonstrates our ability to deliver an application in the most demanding conditions and mission-critical uses, and we look forward to working closely with the crew to ensure their needs are met.”
Voxer was founded in 2007 with the vision to connect people through effortless, effective and personal communication. The privately held San Francisco-based company launched its first walkie-talkie and text-messaging application in 2011. Voxer now offers a high-performance push-to-talk service for small businesses and enterprises. The company has raised $30 million in funding from Institutional Venture Partners, Intel Capital, SV Angel, CrunchFund and other investors. To learn more, please visit www.voxer.com.