NASA Is Working on an Ultra-Realistic Virtual Reality Game "Mars 2030"

Thursday, 25 February 2016 - 10:22AM
Space
Mars
Virtual Reality
Thursday, 25 February 2016 - 10:22AM
NASA Is Working on an Ultra-Realistic Virtual Reality Game "Mars 2030"
Between finding water on Mars and their partnership with The Martian, which basically serves as an hour-and-a-half-long commercial for NASA, the space agency is placing all of their eggs in the Mars basket. They have been vocal about their plans to reach Mars by 2030 (although Congress recently ripped apart their plan as underdeveloped and unfeasible), but they're now trying to give humans the Martian experience even sooner than that. Through a partnership with VR developer Fusion, NASA is working on a virtual reality game that will give players a scientifically accurate, first-person view of the reality of visiting and colonizing the Red Planet.
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"NASA has provided us information to achieve the highest level of regard for scientific accuracy through direct contact with various teams working on the many facets of such a complex mission," Julian Reyes, Fusion virtual reality producer and designer, told Discovery News. "Our goal is to stay within the bounds of scientific accuracy while still driven by a compelling story that engages the players."
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The game, called Mars 2030, is an "open-world" environment in which players complete smaller missions on the way to exploring and building habitats on Mars. The missions reflect real-life NASA goals, and the challenges take into account factors like food, life support, maintenance, and resource utilization. Every part of the game is as true-to-life as possible; for example, the players are required to send sterilized robots to explore an area before any humans set foot there, in order to avoid disrupting the ecosystem of microbes in the environment.

Fusion came up with the idea for Mars 2030 after reading MIT's now-infamous feasibility study regarding Mars One, the one-way trip to Mars that was publicly declared unrealistic as a result of inadequate technologies and a lack of funding. For the study, the researchers had created a simulation of a Mars outpost, which showed them exactly which supplies and technologies would be needed to keep four people alive on Mars indefinitely. Fusion contacted MIT in order to perform a similar feat using virtual reality, and the researchers have been working on the behavioral and survival aspects of the game in order to make it reflect the reality if living on Mars.

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"The Mars 2030 experience essentially incorporates insights like these into a more realistic visual environment," said Sydney Do, MIT PhD candidate and lead author of the study, who directly advised the game developers. "You could say that our research does the back-end work - it determines how much of what resource or technology is needed based on a crew activity profile designed to meet some mission objective, while the Mars 2030 experience visualizes this information and builds a story around it using the state of the art in game development."
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Mars 2030 is set to premiere at SXSW in March, and, if all goes well, will be available to the public by late summer. As the game develops, Fusion is dedicated to keeping it scientifically accurate, while also ensuring that it still feels like an actual game rather than a teaching tool.

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"[Fusion is] staying true to the science of the experience and elaborating on it whenever possible (without making things boring)," said Reyes.
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Science
NASA
Space
Mars
Virtual Reality

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