If SpaceVR's Overview One Kickstarter succeeds, we might see the International Space Station and entire 3D planets in real-time virtual reality.
Photos and videos are great, but there are some things you have to see in person to fully graps the experience. Rarely is that more true than in space, as several astronauts have tried to explain. There's just something about seeing our world from above atmosphere which inspires a sense of awe in wonder. But if footage can't capture that experience, perhaps virtual reality will come close. At least that's the hope of SpaceVR, who just launched the "Overview One" Kickstarter. Its goal? To install 3D VR cameras on the International Space Station, nearby asteroids, and perhaps other planets to "visit" them in real-time.
"Only 536 people have ever been to space," SpaceVR's Kickstarter page reads. "What about the other 7 billion? Our vision is to bring the Overview Effect to everyone by allowing people to truly experience space and to explore our universe through the magic of virtual reality."
Marketed as a camera which "makes everyone an astronaut", the Overview One is designed to capture full 3D footage in real-time, and stream it back to Earth. The finished device assembles images from 12 different cameras that will be compatible with consumer-model headsets like Samsung's GearVR or the Google Cardboard. The Overview One would be made with 3D printed components - printed in space, by the way - which are assembled on the ISS to capture any happenings in orbit. "It's like Netflix, except you get to go to space," SpaceVR co-founder Isaac DeSouza told The Verge.
Of course, real-time 3D orbital footage is only SpaceVR's first phase: The next step is visiting other bodies of our solar system. By 2017, SpaceVR intends to land an Overview One on the Moon, giving us a view of our closest neighbor. Next up is landing a camera on an asteroid by 2022, followed by a Martian version in 2026. SpaceVR even hopes to launch an orbital remote controlled cube-satellite VR camera system, which could then be piloted by customers to simulate flying over Earth's orbit. (Presumably within parameters so it doesn't always crash and burn.)
SpaceVR is currently seeking $500,000 to cover launch costs and its first year of operations, offering incentives like annual subscriptions as Kickstarter rewards. That said, there are risks to the program. While the ISS can stream data at 300 megabits per second, most affiliated corporations have much more limited access - SpaceVR could get anywhere from three to six megabits thanks to its partners. But DeSouza is hoping to up that to 60 megabits per second, which should be enough for high-quality live streaming.
Despite the hurdles, I do have to admit that the prospect is intriguing. Most of us probably won't travel into space after all, making virtual reality the best alternative to seeing it first hand. And who knows, perhaps one day photos such as these taken by the Hubble Space Telescope will be images delivered by virtual reality headsets. What do you think of the idea?