Spacecraft Augmented Reality Brings NASA Spacecraft to Your Personal Space

Published : Thursday, March 22, 2018 | 1:51 PM

The free Spacecraft AR app uses Google ARCore technology to put virtual 3-D models of NASA robotic spacecraft, such as the Curiosity Mars rover seen here, into any environment with a flat surface. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The free Spacecraft AR app uses Google ARCore technology to put virtual 3-D models of NASA robotic spacecraft, such as the Curiosity Mars rover seen here, into any environment with a flat surface. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

JPL has created a mobile app that uses augmented reality (AR) technology to put virtual 3D models of NASA’s robotic space explorers into any environment with a flat surface.

“The Spacecraft AR app is an exciting new way to get up close and personal with NASA’s robotic missions,” said Kevin Hussey, manager of JPL’s visualization team. “We can’t wait for people to try it, and we’re looking forward to adding many more spacecraft to the app in the future.”

Spacecraft AR uses the same high-quality 3D models as a previously released NASA app called Spacecraft 3D, but with a breakthrough new capability — with any flat surface, and does not require the user to print a target.

JPL developed the Spacecraft AR app in collaboration with Google. The app uses Google’s ARCore technology to bring 3D spacecraft into users’ devices using native mobile augmented reality.

According to JPL, native mobile AR uses the built-in capabilities of a mobile device to interact with 3D environments and objects.

JPL said the initial version of the app works with Android devices that support ARCore, with plans to add additional device compatibility shortly, including iOS devices.

To enjoy Spacecraft AR, swipe to select from missions that observe and explore Earth, Mars and the other planets, and choose the spacecraft they would like to see — NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover, Juno, Cassini, and Voyager, or the 70-meter NASA Deep Space Network dish. More spacecraft will be added in the future.

Once the app detects a flat surface in front of the mobile device’s camera—a desk, a tabletop, or the floor—users can tap the screen to place the spacecraft into the scene. They can then take and share photos directly from the app, and view in-depth information about each mission. For those using the app in spaces that are large enough, there’s even a button to view the spacecraft at their actual sizes.

To download the new app, visit https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=gov.nasa.jpl.spacecraftAR.

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