Ride the Oculus Rift to outer space!

Researchers at the UK's Surrey Space Center are trying to fund a novel way for the 99.999992 percent of us who've never been to outer space to virtually get there.

Michael Franco
Freelancer Michael Franco writes about the serious and silly sides of science and technology for CNET and other pixel and paper pubs. He's kept his fingers on the keyboard while owning a B&B in Amish country, managing an eco-resort in the Caribbean, sweating in Singapore, and rehydrating (with beer, of course) in Prague. E-mail Michael.
Michael Franco
2 min read
The proposed payload that will travel twice as high as a commercial airliner so you can do the same without ever leaving Earth! Surrey Space Center,Aaron Knoll

So begins the video presentation for a new Kickstarter campaign that's seeking funding to create a virtual ride to the highest reaches of our atmosphere. The team of researchers developing the idea is working at Surrey Space Center at England's University of Surrey. They propose to send a series of 24 GoPro Hero3 cameras attached to a balloon approximately 12.5 miles into the air. There, the balloon will pop, a parachute will open, and the whole works will drift peacefully back to Earth, filming all the while.

The video footage of the journey will then be stitched into a continuous immersive experience that will be available as software for the Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset, complete with its own musical soundtrack (which you can customize using your own MP3 player). The software will allow you to speed up, slow down, and reverse time -- all the while looking wherever you want thanks to the magic of the OR headset.

For those who don't have an Oculus Rift -- which, seeing as it's not yet commercial available, might be a percentage only a little lower than those of us who've been to space -- the developers plan to have versions of the software available for smartphones and PCs. Smartphone users will be able to look around by tilting their devices, while the experience on PCs will be controlled via mouse, similar to an FPS game, according to the site which adds: "Either way, you'll be able to look around freely in real time as if you were a virtual passenger riding the balloon to space."

The bid to get the Oculus Rift software (the Rift itself is yours to try and score) is 50 pounds (about $84). Considering a seat on Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic trip to space costs $250,000, this might indeed be a more affordable option. But you won't get those little packets of peanuts.

Here's a bit more about the project: