Oculus Rift and NASA bring virtual reality to Mars with new simulator

Aug 6, 2013

NASA's Curiosity rover is currently putzing around on the surface of Mars, and we've seen plenty of pictures to know what the red planet looks like. However, a new simulator that NASA put together using an Oculus Rift VR headset and a Virtuix Omni VR treadmill, you'll now be able to know what it's like to walk around on Mars.

It turns out that NASA has been quite interested in the Oculus Rift, and the organization got their hands on a developer unit as soon as they could. They started out doing simple things, such as stitching together a stereoscopic 360-degree panorama of Mars using photos from Curiosity, and using the Oculus Rift to look around Mars as if you were actually there.

NASA eventually added terrain and allowed testers to walk around using an Xbox 360 controller while still being able to look around with the Oculus Rift. However, with the reveal of the Virtuix Omni vertual reality treadmill, NASA took things a step further, and brought the capability to actually walk on the surface of Mars. Of course, you still have gravity holding you down, but it seems that it's as real as it gets without actually taking a trip to the red planet.

The Omni treadmill was teased earlier this year, and it's simply a platform that you can walk 360-degrees in any direction. It's not actually a treadmill per se, but it uses a slippery substance on the surface, and when frictionless plates are attached to your shoes, it makes for effortless walking in place.

NASA is using this technology to test out what it might be like for humans to visit Mars. Obviously, all of this testing with virtual reality is still in its early stages, and there are a lot of things that NASA still wants to add, like various sensors, and of course the feeling of weightlessness in space, but this is quite a good start.

VIA: Engadget

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