Destination: Pluto, The VR Experience for CuriosityStream.com and SkyWorks Digital



SIMULATED VIRTUAL REALITY VIEW

Home Run Pictures' client, CuriosityStream.com and Sky Works Digital requested a virtual reality experience using data from the NASA New Horizons space mission to Pluto. Used at a science conference where NASA mission director Alan Stern was speaking, The HTC VIVE simulation app was a successful dramatic experience for attendees as an article at the online site, Huffington Post reported. After creating animated sequences for several science documentaries for the online streaming site, the next step was obviously to allow the conference attendees to take a stroll on the surface based on real imagery sent back by the NASA flyby mission.

A long thin strip stitched together from various images captured by the spacecraft were used as the basis... the most detailed imagery because of the flight path during the flyby. The VR explorer could use the NASA Space Exploration Vehicle [SEV] to select areas to explore and using hand "wands" could control and maneuver the spacecraft over the landscape.

Home Run Pictures' artists and programmers used various tools to create the realistic three-dimensional terrain. As the thin strip, nicknamed "the noodle," represented almost 4000 miles of landscape, it was necessary to develope techniques to be able to load much more data then is typical in VR simulations. A load on demand technique was employed to push the current technology limits of the VR headsets and provide a much larger exploration experience.

The simulation also allowed the explorer to walk around on the surface and pick up rocks that they then could throw great distances due to the lower gravity accurately simulated in the app. Also available was a "jetpack" mode where the user could experience the drawf planets landscape in a full 360 degree immersive view as they flew over mountains and valleys of terrain made up of frozen water and methane. Along the way, markers indicating points of interest would describe what the explorer was seeing.

Although virtual relaity is predominately currently used for gaming use, the Destination: Pluto, the VR Experience showed that there are educational and scientific visualization applications as well that can use the new technology.


SIMULATED VIRTUAL REALITY VIEW

The current version of the Destination: Pluto, the VR Experience is available for free download at the Steam gaming site for anyone with access to an HTC VIVE headset and the interest to go exploring firsthand on the dwarf planet Pluto.

Click here for Quicktime Demo movie of Destination: Pluto, The VR Experience

Click here to go to the VR@HomeRunPictures page


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