NASA’s Virtual Reality

NASA Virtual Reality

Cinematographer Morton Heilig created Sensorama, the first VR machine (patented in 1962). It was a large booth that could fit up to four people at a time. It combined multiple technologies to stimulate all of the senses: there was a combined full colour 3D video, audio, vibrations, smell and atmospheric effects, such as wind.

The Sensorama VR machine

This was done using scent producers, a vibrating chair, stereo speakers and a stereoscopic 3D screen. Heilig thought that the Sensorama was the “Cinema of the Future” and he wanted to fully immerse people in their films. Six short films were developed for it.

NASA’s VIEW (Virtual Interactive Environment Workstation)

NASA’s View headset from 1992 is already quite close to the design of today’s VR headsets. This system could not only remotely control a stereoscopic camera, but also display either the real 3D scene or a virtual environment. The picture shows the full version with 3D sound and gloves for real interaction with the telepresent world.

Virtual technology could make it easier for NASA to accomplish its future space and aeronautics efforts. Because a person can be immersed in a computerized world where any situation can be copied or imagined, virtual reality can be an effective training tool for pilots and astronauts.

For example, NASA scientists are developing and evaluating how humans interact with a virtual exploration system that could be used to explore planetary surfaces before humans or robots land there. The work uses digital images returned by the Viking probes that landed on Mars in 1976.

Advanced computing techniques let users examine the surface in varying degrees of detail, depending on what they want to do. If “virtual astronauts” want to move from place to place on the Martian surface, the computer can restrict the complexity of the scene during rapid motions. When they stop for a closer look, the detail increases dramatically.

Aircraft crew members could “fly” in a new cockpit or perfect spacewalking tasks without the need for large, expensive simulators. Specialists could learn to operate scientific instruments in a virtual environment before the devices are built or flown. Under controlled, realistic conditions, astronauts will be able to practice flying and working next to large objects while circling Earth at 17,500 miles per hour.

By Elysian Studios

Blissful Experiences in Virtual Reality

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