You have probably at some point come to the disappointing realisation that the chances of you visiting space are slim. Unless you are able to wrangle together $250,000 (£198,000, €233,000) for a ticket on the stratosphere-skimming Virgin Galactic, the closest you are ever going to get to reaching the cosmic void is taking a long-haul flight, or sitting in a very tall tree.
Until now, that is. A new computer-generated virtual reality (VR) experience inspired by Nasa’s training programme has been commissioned by the BBC and lets you take a virtual spacewalk. Home: A VR Spacewalk places users on a space station looking down on the Earth and then tasks them with tackling an emergency situation.
The project is a collaboration between the BBC and UK-based virtual reality studio Rewind. The experience for the HTC Vive, has been built using the Unreal 4 game engine and incorporates haptic feedback and biometric sensors that monitor the player’s heart rate. If this gets too high and players lose their cool, they are sent back to base.
It also uses spatial audio to recreate the sense of being inside an astronaut’s helmet, such as the sound of the space suit’s life support system.
The BBC calls Home: A VR Spacewalk its “first steps into virtual reality content”. The broadcaster has been exploring virtual reality and 360-degree content for several years and is eager to join the likes of YouTube and Facebook in offering accessible virtual reality content through devices such as Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR.
Speaking on BBC’s Click programme Tom Durton, of the BBC’s digital storytelling team, said: “We’ve taken all the storytelling power of the BBC and applied that behind it, so there’s a great script, a great narrative, and we’ve also looked at all the cutting edge explorations people are doing around VR in terms of biomonitoring, haptic feedback et cetera, and trying to bring that into it.”
Home: A VR Spacewalk has not been given a confirmed release date as yet, however a Rewind spokesperson told IBTimes UK that it would be available on the Steam Store “within the next couple of months”.
Rewind founder and CEO Sol Rodgers said in a statement: “We are extremely proud of this piece of ground breaking experimental VRX (Virtual Reality Experience) that will bring the wonder of walking in space to everyone who tries it. Some of the most advanced visual effects currently available in VR, accompanied with spatial audio have been used to create an incredibly visceral piece of content.”