Ever wanted to travel into space to the International Space Station? Now you can, albeit in Virtual Reality.
Australian multimedia company Opaque Multimedia has combined an Oculus Rift headset with Microsoft Kinect 2 motion tracking to make it possible for everyone to travel into space and perform a space walk. The company's new tech demo, Earthlight, lets players explore in first person around the outside of the ISS as it orbits the Earth, safely protected from radiation, meteor strikes and other real life space hazards.
Earthlight is designed to get as close to it as possible to the actual Space Walk experience. 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. Take a pause and check out the view below, Earth sure looks good from up here.
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 project's main goal was to demonstrate how the two technologies can 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.
If you want to try Earthlight for yourself. It will be available at the Opaque Multimedia booth at the 2015 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco this week. Public release will 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.