Yesterday, NASA JPL released Spacecraft 3D, an augmented reality application for the iPhone and iPad that allows you to create a 3D version of either Curiosity, the Mars rover current en-route to the Red Planet, or the GRAIL spacecraft, currently orbiting the moon. Although it may sound simple, the technology behind making the models appear on your device is actually fairly advanced. It works like this:
I had a lot of fun playing around with the app at my desk today. Here’s a picture of GRAIL hanging off the side of my wall:
You can also make the models move and interact – for example, Curiosity will rotate around and extend its robotic arm.
Spacecraft 3D is a great demonstration of augmented reality technology and some of the potentials it has for work at NASA and in the world. Imagine using similar technology to project images on the helmets of astronauts on spacewalks to help them locate and move components. With the increases in computing power that we are seeing today, augmented reality will quickly become feasible for the masses and technologies like Google’s Project Glass will become ubiquitous. Think of the possibilities!
Spacecraft 3D is currently available for iPhone and iPad and will be coming to other platforms soon.