Google's Solar Simulator App Creates an Augmented Reality Solar System at Home

Who needs a disco ball when you can have a model sun hovering above the drinks?

Solar Simulator; Google

Google wants you to experience the vastness of our solar system from inside your studio apartment.

Solar Simulator, a new app from Google’s Project Tango, allows users to place solar systems in their own homes using augmented reality technology. Designed by graduate students at San Francisco State University, the app brings the sense of scale posed by the solar system right into your living room or backyard. Simply place the Sun and Neptune, and the app creates a live simulation of the solar system, complete with accurate orbits and scaled planets, that plays out before your eyes.

Setting up Solar Simulator is maybe a little more complicated than it should be, but once you’ve navigated the instructions, you have a pretty neat party trick to share with your friends. Who needs a disco ball when you can have a model sun hovering just above the drink table? You may even get a second look if you ask someone to check out Uranus and then actually deliver.

Place the sun

For all the talk of augmented and virtual reality headsets, the Solar Simulator also shows there is room for the traditional phone app market to expand. If your phone can register its surroundings and place an entire solar system, it can probably generate a couple zombies for you to shoot down as well.

The sense of scale offered in the simulator is striking as ever, and the use of augmented reality gives the well-worn practice of exploring the universe a freshness that’s well-deserved. Now, we’re just waiting until the team debuts the software that lets you go in the opposite direction — deep down into the interior of a cell.