The virtual-reality startup SpaceVR has turned to Kickstarter to raise money to put a 3D, 360-degree camera aboard the International Space Station to give people an immersive look at the ISS and the Earth below.
Back in January, we learned about a virtual-reality startup called SpaceVR that wanted to bring people to space with VR headsets like Google Cardboard and the Oculus Rift. Now the company is preparing to send a 3D, 360-degree UHD (Ultra High Definition) camera to the International Space Station, and it's turned to Kickstarter for assistance.
You can already take a virtual tour of the ISS, or most of it, created from photos taken by astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti in June (also see our roundup of her best photos of the Earth from space). And you can see a 4-minute 4K HD video courtesy of astronaut Terry Virts. But what SpaceVR has in mind could be more dramatic and extensive.
SpaceVR is seeking a total of $500,000 (about £320,000, AU $685,000) to cover the costs of launching its camera kit, called the Overview One, into space, as well as the company's estimated operating costs for the first year. The Overview One camera itself will be sent to the ISS later this year with NanoRacks, a company that provides commercial lab access on the station, and an astronaut aboard the ISS will 3D-print the camera's casing and put the camera kit together using SpaceVR's design model and technology from Made In Space.
Once the camera is pieced together, astronauts aboard the ISS will capture footage from the Cupola module, which has large windows that should give the SpaceVR team a fantastic view of the space station and the Earth below.
After that footage is transmitted back down to the SpaceVR team on Earth, the company plans to put together the footage to create a virtual-reality experience compatible with any of the number of virtual-reality systems available today, including Google Cardboard, the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive.
Like typical crowdfunding campaigns, the SpaceVR Kickstarter features tiers for backers pledging different amounts in exchange for goodies like pictures, posters and T-shirts, but those looking for the full VR experience will have to open their wallets a bit. The cheapest tier that offers SpaceVR's 3D VR content costs $75 (about £50, AU $100), which gives backers access to all of SpaceVR's hypothetical content from the ISS, shuttle launches, space walks and the like for three months.
If you don't have a VR headset, the campaign has a tier that will send you a custom-branded Google Cardboard kit for $100 (about £65, AU $135), or you can snag a custom Samsung Gear VR kit for $750 (about £500, AU $1,000).
The ISS is just the first stop for SpaceVR, which hopes to create VR experiences for Earth's moon by 2017, an asteroid by 2022 and Mars as early as 2026. You can learn more about the SpaceVR project and its plans to bring virtual reality into the cosmos on the Kickstarter page.