NASA Is Taking Leisurely Virtual Reality Strolls Around Mars

By Nick Venable | 7 years ago

nasa oculus riftIf you think you’ve missed the train to Mars, don’t bother settling for counting stars. (Hum reference!) Just head on over to NASA‘s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where they’re walking around Mars like nobody’s business. Well, they aren’t actually setting foot on the red planet, but rather virtually traversing the dusty ground with the combined use of an Oculus Rift VR headset and Virtuix’s Omni treadmill. When combined, you get all of the high-resolution planetary exploration with none of the eye-bulging death by suffocation.

This experience is made possible by the massive amounts of imagery obtained over the last year by the Curiosity rover, as well as satellite imagery from above. The lab had previously combined all this into a panorama which could be “explored” in two dimensions using an Xbox 360 controller, and before that even, they allowed Xbox users to land the rover on Mars last year. But after getting hands-on with the Oculus Rift and feet-on with the Omni, NASA contacted both products’ companies to get the equipment in the lab.

And now, a fully immersible experience can be had, though neither of these products is on the market just yet. (The headset is planned to ship out pre-orders in September, while the treadmill is set to ship in January 2014.) But you can take a peek at how it works and looks in the video below.

Did you notice that it wasn’t just Mars being shown? The lab also created a simulation of the International Space Station for one to walk float around and explore. Just try not to get in anybody’s way, okay?

The lab will continue to build upon the simulation as more and more images get sent from Curiosity, and though a full mapping of the planet will take a while to achieve, it’s certainly possible. And I’ve got my Mars boots on already, ready to take the journey. (For me, Mars boots are actually just extremely comfortable slippers, but they’re red!)

If you’re more into the idea of shooting the shit out of things rather than exploring, Australian developer Teddy Lipowitz has brought two Razer Hydra motion controllers to the Oculus Rift/Omni mix and also designed a first-person shooter demo called “Hydra Cover Shooter.” When all hooked up, he’s able to not only walk around an area with a gun, but he can also duck behind crates and dodge left and right. This is the future of Halo, people. Check out Lipowitz’s video below.

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