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NASA Is Taking Leisurely Virtual Reality Strolls Around Mars

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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.)