Have you ever wanted to experience what it was like to be an astronaut? You could spend money on a ‘Vomit Comet‘ ride to simulate the effects of zero gravity for a very few seconds, or you can experience the wonders and perils of space with virtual reality thanks to Earthlight.
Earthlight comes from Melbourne-based Opaque Media Group, who specialise in using virtual reality to solve problems. As such, they are among the first in the world to have development experience with the PlayStation VR, Microsoft HoloLens, and the HTC Vive – which was is the VR headset used for the Earthlight demo at PAX Australia this year.
Created using Unreal Engine 4, this VR game transports the players into the body of an astronaut, interacting with the world through a pair of virtual arms – which are controlled by the SteamVR controllers (they can also be controlled through the Oculus Touch and PlayStation Move).
The game is visually impressive, with the designers have tried to make this as realistic as possible – such as the International Space Station. “When we first released the screenshots, the community did not realise they were rendered images. And when they figured it out, the interest exploded,” Emre Deniz, the principal environment artist on the original Earthlight demo team, says. They also have received feedback from NASA to ensure it realistically portrays space exploration.
“They’re [NASA] helping us to create an experience that is as close to what actual astronauts would experience,” Norman Wang, Director and Earthlight Project Lead, told TechGeek. It should be noted that the developer stress that, while they are providing feedback, NASA is not endorsing the product .
The only limitation of the demo is that you can’t move around the room or free roam. You are tethered to the seat and have to rotate your body around to see what’s around you. In order to move around, you have to continuously grab handrails – though I’m not complaining about that as I guess it adds to the realism of space exploration (otherwise, you will float away in space).
Opaque Media says they are not committed to a timeframe, but they are hoping to release a public build of Earthlight in time with the release of the first-generation VR headsets (such as Steam VR and the consumer version of the Oculus Rift).