An app called Spacecraft 3D, a NASA-created app that brings some of the agency's robotic spacecraft to life in 3D, is now available for free on the iPhone and iPad.
NASA's Spacecraft 3D is an augmented reality (AR) application that lets you learn about and interact with a variety of spacecraft that are used to explore our solar system, study Earth, and observe the universe.
(Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Spacecraft 3D uses animation to show how spacecraft can maneuver and manipulate their outside components. Presently, the new app features two NASA missions, the Curiosity rover that will touch down on Mars on Aug. 5 at 10:31 p.m. PDT (Aug. 6 at 1:31 a.m. EDT), and the twin GRAIL spacecraft, Ebb and Flow, currently orbiting the moon.
Spacecraft 3D uses the iPhone or iPad camera to overlay information on the device's main screen. The app instructs users to print an augmented-reality target on a standard sheet of paper. Once you have the marker printed out, place it on a flat surface where your device's camera will be albe to see it.
Use the "Select Spacecraft" button on the home screen to choose one of the spacecraft to explore. Afer a few seconds, the model will load. You can move around and rotate the spacecraft and control its its arms or mast. You can also zoom in or out and take a photo in AR mode and save the screenshot to your device's camera roll.
"Let's say you want to get an idea what our Curiosity Mars rover is all about," said Kevin Hussey, manager of visualization technology at JPL. "Like Hollywood directors sizing up their next shot, you move your camera-equipped iPad or iPhone in and out, up and down, and the spacecraft perspective moves with you. It is a great way to study the 3-D nature of NASA spacecraft."
Spacecraft 3D also has a feature where you can take your own augmented-reality picture of the rover or GRAIL spacecraft. You can even make a self-portrait with a spacecraft, putting yourself or someone else in the picture.
Up to now the function of app is limited only for viewing some of NASA's missions in 3D. But NASA hopes to add more spacecraft in the future.
"In the near future, we will incorporate the Cassini spacecraft, which is orbiting Saturn, the Dawn spacecraft, which is deep in the heart of the asteroid belt, and the Voyagers, which are right now at the very edge of our solar system," said Hussey. "Looking down the road, we've got a veritable solar system full of spacecraft to work with."
Spacecraft 3D currently is available only for Apple formats, but should be available on other formats in the near future.
Posted in 3D Software
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