Virtual Reality

Tech demo lets you visit the International Space Station in VR

Tech demo lets you visit the I...
Opaque Multimedia's Earthlight lets you explore the outside of the International Space Station through an Oculus Rift headset, with Microsoft Kinect 2 motion tracking of your hands and arms
Opaque Multimedia's Earthlight lets you explore the outside of the International Space Station through an Oculus Rift headset, with Microsoft Kinect 2 motion tracking of your hands and arms
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Opaque Multimedia's Earthlight lets you explore the outside of the International Space Station through an Oculus Rift headset, with Microsoft Kinect 2 motion tracking of your hands and arms
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Opaque Multimedia's Earthlight lets you explore the outside of the International Space Station through an Oculus Rift headset, with Microsoft Kinect 2 motion tracking of your hands and arms
Earthlight is effectively a first-person exploration game set in space
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Earthlight is effectively a first-person exploration game set in space
The ISS is modelled in painstaking detail in Unreal Engine 4
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The ISS is modelled in painstaking detail in Unreal Engine 4
Your glimpses of the Earth will look different each time, as the ISS orbits around the planet
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Your glimpses of the Earth will look different each time, as the ISS orbits around the planet

Wondrous as today's technology is, there remains no feasible way to put ordinary people in space. Except, it seems, through virtual reality. Australian multimedia company Opaque Multimedia has combined an Oculus Rift headset with Microsoft Kinect 2 motion tracking to make it possible for every Tom, Dick, and Sally on the planet to get a first-hand (virtual) taste of life on – or rather just outside – the International Space Station. The comapny's new tech demo, Earthlight, lets players explore in first person around the outside of the ISS as it orbits the Earth, safe in the comfort of their living room.

Earthlight may not capture every element of the real experience, but it was designed to get as close to it as possible. Move your hands out in front of you and you'll see in your headset a space-gloved hand exactly where you'd expect it to be. Similarly, reach out to a handle or bit of scaffolding and give it a tug and your virtual self will begin to float forwards. And as you explore you might just see the Earth as it looks from 431 kilometers (268 miles) above.

It was difficult to make this work from a technical standpoint because even a millisecond delay or minor deviation between your movement and your avatar's movement can make the experience more horrifying than exhilarating. Project lead Norman Wang says that to keep it running smoothly they had to push both the software and hardware to their limit.

The ISS is modelled in painstaking detail in Unreal Engine 4
The ISS is modelled in painstaking detail in Unreal Engine 4

The project's main goal was to demonstrate how the two technologies can be made to work together at the limits of their current capabilities, and to show off the power of a Kinect 4 Unreal plugin developed by Opaque Multimedia for use with Microsoft Kinect 2 and Unreal 4 on Windows.

Earthlight will be available at the Opaque Multimedia booth at the 2015 Game Developers Conference this week, with a public release to follow soon after. Kinect 4 Unreal is available now from the Opaque Multimedia website and will be available from the Unreal Marketplace from March 18.

You can check out a trailer for Earthlight below.

Source: Opaque Multimedia

Earthlight Art Launch Trailer

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