Technology continues to progress at an astounding rate. Advances in different fields are amazing on their own, but truly remarkable things can happen when they converge.
Take for example the Mars rovers. Previous explorations in 1971 and 1997 were not terribly successful (it was difficult to either keep them moving, or to communicate with Earth). However, thanks to advancements in NASA research, the United States launched three rovers starting in 2003 that have brought us continuous information from the neighboring planet over the last thirteen years.
Virtual Reality is a technology that followed a similar trajectory. Early creations through the 1980’s would be considered crude by modern standards. The 1990’s saw the first attempts to bring the “VR” experience to consumers, mainly for gaming purposes. The products were not advanced enough to succeed, but we are on the precipice of a revival: Facebook’s Oculus Rift, the HTC Vibe, and Google Cardboard are all primed to change how we visually interact with digital content.
What happens when we combine these two advances? Something truly remarkable. NASA is currently working with Microsoft on a project called OnSight, which will allow users to explore the data collected by Mars rovers in a Virtual Reality environment. It’s the next best thing to being there. The experience is currently only available to those working on the project, but NASA expects it will eventually be released to the public.
Just imagine walking around Mars and exploring the planet from the comfort of your own home. It would be truly remarkable, not to mention safe.