Virtual reality is quickly becoming the best way to escape the confines of our bedrooms during quarantine, and now it’s going to help us escape the planet, too. Thanks to a custom 3D camera that was just delivered to the International Space Station (ISS), any of us Earth-bound peons will soon be able to complete a spacewalk from the comfort of our living rooms. Well — anyone with an Oculus headset, that is.
The immersive VR experience, which is set to be called “Space Explorers: The ISS Experience,” has been made possible by the collaborative efforts of three very different companies: Felix & Paul Studios, a “full-spectrum immersive entertainment studio;” Time Studios, the television and film division of Time; and Nanoracks, a space tech company.
The Space Camera, as the team calls it, is a feat of modern photography. With Elon Musk’s plans to colonize Mars still very much on hold, this is probably the closest most of us will ever get to actually hopping around in zero gravity.
All about that hardware — You need specialized hardware to enjoy VR experiences. You need even more customized, ultra-modern technology to capture them in the first place. This project relies on a custom-made camera called, aptly enough, the “Space Camera” to carry out its mission.
The specs on this camera are out of this world (sorry, sorry, bad pun, it had to be said). The Space Camera is a Z-Cam V1 Pro camera with nine (nine!) different 4K sensors. Together those sensors put together a full 360-degree experience that will be presented to viewers at an 8K resolution. It can film approximately 15 hours of 3D footage, and its housing and lenses have been made to withstand extreme light and heat exposure.
Fully immersive? — Spacewalking is the perfect activity to film for a VR experience because it’s truly something very few people can experience physically. Only 228 humans have ever conducted a spacewalk, as executive producer Jonathan Woods points out.
Here’s the problem, though: you won’t actually be in space. Instead, you’ll be stuck in Earth’s gravitational hold, feet planted solidly on the ground. The promise of a “fully immersive” experience is doomed to fall at least somewhat short because, well, it won’t actually feel like you’re walking in space. It’ll feel like you’re watching people walk in space while you’re still very much on Earth.
Exclusive — During the COVID-19 pandemic, VR has effortlessly gone from a quirky activity to a replacement for physical activities like attending concerts and trying on wedding dresses. Facebook has led the pack in VR thanks to its super-accessible Oculus line.
The “Space Explorers” series is an Oculus exclusive; Facebook owns Oculus. That means you’ll need to be ready to fork over a few hundred dollars to Mark Zuckerberg and company to experience the VR spacewalk.