Wednesday, 21 October 2015

UKAstroNut- Reaching out to the stars with Virtual Reality

For much of the internet, the future is here today simply because today is the date that Marty McFly went into the “future” in Back to the Future Part 2. Now, we all love Back to the Future, but with many of us being disappointed with the lack of hoverboards being freely available, I'd like to remind you that it's not all that bleak as the future is already here, as the future is Virtual Reality. Virtual Reality is a term that's been thrown around in science fiction for years now, but with the advent of the Oculus Rift, the HTC VIVE and Playstation VR, we're currently on the verge of something rather great. However, even more available than those VR headsets is Google Coardboard, a headset you can essentially print at home, and one that is genuinely available to all.

Since Google Cardboard was released we've seen many apps and games created for it.  Many of these VR experiences have you going head-to-head with hordes of enemies, but there are some that focus on something far more interesting- exploration. That's where Matthew Allen comes in. Matthew's a PhD student currently studying at Cardiff university, and through the technology available and his own love for Physics and Astronomy, he has created two VR apps that let the user explore our universe. Funded by the Institute of Physics and supported by CeX through hardware donations, Matthew's apps put VR to arguably its best use- as a teaching tool.

 Matthew's first app was Our Solar System VR, which allowed users to explore our universe, travel to the planets that inhabit it, and learn all about them. His second app is Our Universe in Light, which gives us a look at our Universe and what the objects in it look like in different wavelengths of light.  Quite recently Matthew showed of his apps at Science Cafe Cardiff, and going by the pictures he's shared on his blog post here, it certainly looks like the public is starting to realise the importance of VR. Whether you've previously checked out VR or not, we hope you swing by Matthew's blog and give his apps a try. Matthew even does a pretty nifty Youtube series that delves into all of those science questions you have buzzing in your mind. Sure, the hoverboard may be far off at this point, but the future is indeed here in other ways.

Denis Murphy

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