(Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET Australia)
For NASA, the two yet-to-be-released gaming peripherals have a a different potential: exploring a virtual Mars.
We're growing ever closer to a fully immersive virtual-reality (VR) gaming environment, especially with two hit Kickstarter peripherals on the way: the Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset and the Virtuix Omni omni-directional gaming treadmill. Together, the two promise a gaming experience like no other.
But wherever you have interesting tech, you'll find someone wanting to push it beyond its original scope. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has managed to get its hands on both pieces of kit — and turned them into equipment for exploring a virtual Mars surface.
Starting with the Oculus Rift, the team put together panoramic images from Curiosity along with satellite photos to create an environment that the wearer could move around in. But when the Virtuix Omni came along, it brought with it a new possibility: the feeling of actually walking on Mars.
At the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) this year, the Virtuix team dropped by JPL headquarters with the treadmill, and hooked it up to the virtual Mars equipment — allowing the first humans to touch their feet to the red planet, albeit virtually. The team also built a virtual model of the International Space Station to explore with the headset.
Neither the Omni nor the Oculus Rift have made it out to consumers yet. The Omni, according to its Kickstarter page, is due to arrive to backers in January next year, while the Oculus Rift doesn't have a street date for consumers. When they hit, though, we'd love to see JPL make virtual space exploration available to the public. Imagine flying through the Orion nebula. Yes, please.