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NASA Teams Up With Epic Games And HeroX To Source VR Technology For Future Mars Exploration

by Rainier on May 5, 2022 @ 10:38 a.m. PDT

The NASA MarsXR Challenge seeks contributions to a Virtual Reality (XR) testbed environment that replicates the experiences and situations astronauts may encounter on Mars.

HeroX offers a turnkey, easy-to-use platform that supports anyone, anywhere, to solve everyday business and world challenges using the power of the crowd.

To facilitate research, development, and testing using virtual reality, NASA, in collaboration with Buendea, is developing the Mars XR Operations Support System using Epic Games' Unreal Engine 5. Participants of the NASA MarsXR Challenge will gain first access to this virtual reality environment, which includes:

  • Full Martian days, with the orange hues of day transitioning to blue at night.
  • Changing weather conditions and Martian gravity.
  • Over 400 km2 (~ 154 Miles2) of realistic, researched Mars terrain.
  • Some existing assets, such as suits and rovers.

Challenge participants will be tasked with developing assets and scenarios within the virtual reality environment that model the types of tasks that may need to be performed during early human expeditions to Mars, which can then be used to expose researchers and test subjects to immersive and realistic spacewalk activities while on the red planet. Information gained from these simulations could help NASA prepare for future human exploration of Mars.

"Creators can use Unreal Engine to build realistic simulation scenarios to help prepare NASA for future missions, whether that's to the moon or to Mars," said Seb Loze, Unreal Engine business director for simulation at Epic Games. "Whether you're a game designer, architect, hobbyist or rocket scientist, anyone can build with UE5, and we can't wait to see the immersive simulations the community comes up with."

"It's always exciting to see how cutting-edge technology makes what we thought previously impossible possible," said Kal K. Sahota. "HeroX's expansive network is sure to find ways to further develop VR technology and better prepare humans for space exploration."

The Challenge: The NASA MarsXR Challenge asks the larger community to consider how to build Virtual Reality assets and simulations for use by NASA in their preparation for extravehicular activities on Mars.

The Prize: Up to 20 participants who submit the top ideas will share a total prize purse of $70,000.

Eligibility to Compete and Win Prize(s):  The prize is open to anyone aged 18 or older participating as an individual or as a team. Individual competitors and teams may originate from any country, as long as United States federal sanctions do not prohibit participation (some restrictions apply).

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