Thursday, September 20, 2018

Looking at Mercury Using Virtual Reality

Enhanced-color image of Mercury from first MESSENGER flyby. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Imagine being on Mercury, flying over its craters and dust. You turn around, the sunlight is really strong, but you can see a new arrived probe, BepiColombo. Big solar panels catch your attention and you start notice more and more details of the instruments it has onboard. And the journey has just begun.

This is the vision for using BepiVR, a proposed application for Android that aims to introduce the public to the ESA BepiColombo mission using the Virtual Reality (VR) technology and has been presented at EPSC in Berlin.

“BepiColombo is one of first ESA mission where the science teams will be able to use immersive experiences to visualize data for analysis” says Romolo Politi, from INAF, Italy. “This new technology could be also used for public outreach associated to the mission, by offering an appealing experience and a wide variety of information on the mission”.

The project is quite ambitious. BepiVR will be structured as a visit to a virtual ESA Museum, where different floors are dedicated to different ESA missions. In a first version of the app, only the floor dedicated to BepiColombo will be accessible, and each instrument of the probe will have a dedicated room. To find out more about the technology behind the mission, visitors will be able to interact with the Principal Investigators (PI) of each instrument in a ”PI Gallery” and hear them talk about their work.

“BepiVR is a special project: all the people involved are working on the real instruments onboard, providing an exemplar of researchers who also dedicate their time to outreach.” adds Politi.

For the moment, a teaser has been released by the group that is freely accessible at the link: https://youtu.be/wX5pMHCKeT0, and provides a great idea of the immersion that will be achieved by the final product.

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