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NASA launches augmented reality Android app that can put a Mars rover right in your living room

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  • NASA created an AR app that allows users to explore space from any location
  • The app is available only for Android users, but will soon come to iOS as well  
  • It was created jointly with Google and uses the company’s ARCore technology
  • All users need to make the app work is a flat surface – it does not require a target

A new app from NASA and Google allows you to explore spacecraft technology from the comfort of your own home.

The app is called Spacecraft AR and it is currently available for Android users.

A statement from NASA said that the app will soon be compatible with iOS devices as well.

All that is required for the app to work is a flat surface, such as a floor.

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NASA has created an app that lets people explore space from their own home. It is currently only available for Android users. But NASA said it will soon be available for iOS users too

NASA has created an app that lets people explore space from their own home. It is currently only available for Android users. But NASA said it will soon be available for iOS users too

NASA said that the technology was developed at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The app relies on new augmented reality technology that can create 3D models of space robots in any rooms with flat surfaces.

NASA said: ‘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.

”Native mobile’ AR uses the built-in capabilities of a mobile device to interact with 3D environments and objects. The initial version of the app works with Android devices that support ARCore, with plans to add additional device compatibility in the near future, including iOS devices.’

Users can explore Mars, Earth and other planets using the app

Users can explore Mars, Earth and other planets using the app

It uses Google's ARCore technology

It uses Google's ARCore technology

The app, called Spacecraft AR, requires only a flat surface to operate. If users are accessing it in a large space they can even see the real life dimensions of the spacecraft they are looking at via the app

The agency explained that it built on technology from an already existing app called Spacecraft 3D while developing Spacecraft AR.

‘To create the experience of having virtual spacecraft in your space, Spacecraft AR uses the same high-quality 3D models as a previously released NASA app, but with a breakthrough capability,’ NASA said.

Spacecraft 3D performs best when it is used with a marker or target, both of which are printed images.

But Spacecraft AR does not require a target, making it more accessible to users, who can experience the technology basically anywhere.

The app must detect a flat surface before users can place a spacecraft in front of them by tapping a screen.

The app was developed by NASA'S Jet Propulsion Laboratory (pictured) in Pasadena, California. It was created jointly with Google

The app was developed by NASA'S Jet Propulsion Laboratory (pictured) in Pasadena, California. It was created jointly with Google

The app was developed by NASA’S Jet Propulsion Laboratory (pictured) in Pasadena, California. It was created jointly with Google

HOW DOES NASA’S SPACECRAFT AR APP WORK?

Spacecraft AR allows users to see 3D representations of NASA technology in their homes

Spacecraft AR allows users to see 3D representations of NASA technology in their homes

Spacecraft AR allows users to see 3D representations of NASA technology in their homes

NASA’s new app, Spacecraft AR, was designed jointly by Google and the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The app allows users to view spacecraft from basically any location as long as they have an Android device.

All they need is a flat surface to use the app. NASA said the company is working on making the technology available for iOS users.

Currently, the following are available on the app: NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover, Juno, Cassini and Voyager.

‘Users can check out the giant, 70-meter NASA Deep Space Network dish. More spacecraft are planned in future updates to the app,’ a NASA statement said.

To access the 3D representations users simply swipe through the app to select a mission that observes and explores Mars, Earth or other planets.

Users pick the spacecraft they want to see before the app detects the flat surface needed for it to work.

Additionally, users can take photos directly from the app – and share them – as well as view detailed information about missions.

The app also has the capability to show people what a spacecraft would look like if they were not looking at it in their living room.

NASA explained: ‘And for those using the app in spaces that are large enough, there’s even a button to view the spacecraft at their actual sizes.’ 

JPL visualization team manager Kevin Hussey said: ‘The Spacecraft AR app is an exciting new way to get up close and personal with NASA’s robotic missions.

‘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.’

 

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