Hopeful Martians can now visit the Red Planet via Microsoft's HoloLens

We’ve seen a number of uses for Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented reality headset, ranging from training soldiers on the battlefield to playing a virtual game of Yu-Gi-Oh! Now Microsoft’s technical marvel is being put to use at the Kennedy Space Center to send visitors to Mars. Given that most humans will never set foot on the toxic Red Planet, this virtual trip will be their only means of visiting the neighboring world.

The exhibit is called Destination: Mars, and will showcase the Red Planet until January 1, 2017. It’s based on images captured by NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover, which is a car-sized robotic rover that began rolling across the rocky Martian surface on August 6, 2012. The exhibit is presented by a holographic version of Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin who is accompanied by Curiosity Mars rover driver Erisa Hines.

“At NASA, we’re excited to apply mixed reality technologies to the challenges we’re facing in space exploration,” says Jeff Norris, project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “Through a collaboration with Microsoft, we’re building applications to support engineers responsible for the design and assembly of spacecraft. Astronauts working on the International Space Station and scientists are now using our Mars tool OnSight in mission operations.”

Revealed back in January, OnSight allows scientists to virtually work on Mars using Microsoft’s HoloLens headset. This tool uses real data provided by the Curiosity rover to generate a 3D version of the Martian landscape, providing a first-person perspective of the rover’s work site. Scientists from around the world can converge on this virtual terrain and extend the rover’s mission by creating new activities and then previewing the outcome before actually moving the rolling robot.

Because it mixes virtual reality with actual reality, HoloLens creates the holographic Martian landscape in the wearer’s field of view. The terrain stays in place, allowing wearers to virtually walk across the hostile Martian surface. This provides scientists and engineers with the means to view Mars naturally, allowing them to examine rock groupings from multiple angles, for instance. What they won’t experience is getting red iron oxide on their shoes or breathing an atmosphere comprised mostly of carbon dioxide.

In January, NASA said that OnSight would be used with Curiosity mission operations sometime in late 2016, followed by possible Mars rover mission operations in 2020. However, right now, NASA is apparently also using this HoloLens tool to present Mars as a mixed-reality experience to visitors of Florida’s Kennedy Space Center until the end of the year.

Destination: Mars is currently available as a pop-up theater in the main visitor complex. It’s included with the daily admission, but requires a reservation once visitors arrive. Aspiring Martians ages 13 and older can find the reservation counter seated next to the bus tour entrance with an attendee who will hand over a card with a reserved time. These reservations are served up on a first come, first served basis, and the show itself will have a limited availability each day. All scheduled visitors must arrive to the exhibit 15 minutes prior to its start.

Call 866.737.5235 for more information from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET.


From the road to your wrist, see how Android has evolved over the past 10 years

Android started out as just a mobile operating system, but 10 years in it's pretty much everywhere. Check out our round-up of all the different Android variations that have cropped up so far, and what might be coming in the future.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Twilight Zone’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.

Ford’s new Shelby GT500 Mustang will have 3D-printed brake parts

Ford's new $45 million Advanced Manufacturing Center will focus on emerging technologies, including 3D printing. One of the staff's first jobs is to print parts for the 700-horsepower Shelby GT500 Mustang.

These are the best Xbox One games available right now

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From 'Cuphead' to 'Halo 5,' the best Xbox One games offer something for everyone.

Following the Portal, augmented reality glasses may be Facebook’s next step

Following the launch of its Portal smart display, Facebook says it is working on AR glasses, possibly in a move at challenging both Apple and Google and perhaps to rise up in the hardware scene. 
Emerging Tech

Here’s all the best gear and gadgetry you can snag for $100 or less

A $100 bill can get you further than you might think -- so long as you know where to look. Check out our picks for the best tech under $100, whether you're in the market for headphones or a virtual-reality headset.

Oculus VR could upgrade the Rift with a new display in 2019

Oculus could be set to release a new version of its Rift headset in 2019, but it will be more of a modest upgrade than a true sequel. The Rift S, as its purportedly called, will have a new display, and inside-out tracking.

Google awarded patent for using eye tracking to detect expressions in VR

Google was awarded a patent that involves using eye tracking to infer facial expressions using machine learning in virtual reality. The tech could help make virtual reality a whole lot more immersive than it already is.

Immerse yourself in a new universe with these incredible PSVR games

The PSVR has surpassed expectations and along with it comes an incredible catalog of games. There's plenty of amazing experiences to be had so we've put together a list of the best PSVR games available today.
Virtual Reality

Prototype Valve VR headset leaked: HTC Vive challenger confirmed?

Leaked images revealed that a Valve VR headset is in development, even amid Valve's partnership with HTC for the HTC Vive. Sources confirmed the device, which may be bundled with a Half-Life VR game.
Virtual Reality

Is the Vive Pro better than the original Vive? Our answer might surprise you

HTC Vive vs. Vive Pro, which comes out on top? That's the subject of our latest comparison, which looks at everything from tracking solutions, to controllers, and the brand new headset that could set a new standard for VR.

The best HTC Vive games available today

So you’re considering an HTC Vive, but don't know which games to get? Our list of 25 of the best HTC Vive games will help you out, whether you're into rhythm-based gaming, interstellar dogfights, or something else entirely.

A Google patent shows a way to make VR even more immersive

Virtual reality can be a really immersive experience, but it does sometimes it does have boundaries. Google has addressed this problem by patenting shoes with a flexible region on the bottom.
Virtual Reality

Think virtual reality is just for games? These awesome apps will change your mind

Virtual reality isn't all about gaming. Swim with turtles, paint in 3D, and immerse yourself in some unique experiences the platform has to offer with our curated list of the best VR apps.