Epic Games partners with NASA on the Metaverse project
The rapid growth of virtual reality technology in the gaming industry has opened up a significant number of opportunities in other industries. Scientific research and training is an example of this, and even NASA recognizes this potential. In a recent announcement, NASA announced that it is partnering with epic games to issue a “challenge” to game developers. The challenge is to create Mars-based virtual reality resources and experiences that can help prepare for an eventual trip to the Red Planet.
The challenge was launched through the HeroX platform, which allows organizations to outsource solutions for unique projects. The NASA challenge is aimed at game developers, which is why it has partnered with Epic Games. Developers will use Unreal Engine 5 to create their Mars assets and experiences, which will ultimately be used within NASA’s Mars XR Operations Support System environment.
Developers won’t be left to develop a complete Mars simulation from scratch, of course. The MarsXR environment already has a significant amount of content available to developers. MarsXR features a “world” with over 400 km^2 of Martian terrain, day/night cycles, realistic weather conditions, simulated gravity on Mars, and resources including spacesuits and rovers. Developers can then add to these assets or use what is available to create their custom experiences.
NASA is researching five different styles of experiences, so developers can choose the one that suits them best. The five ‘categories’ that NASA will assess include ‘Set up camp’, ‘Scientific research’, ‘Maintenance’, ‘Exploration’ and ‘Blow Our Minds’, the latter possibly meaning that some extraterrestrials from Mars will enter the picture. . There will be 20 individual prizes, 4 for each category, and a total prize pool of $7,000. The overall winner in each category will receive $6,000. Those who complete the challenge will have 80 days to participate in the challenge.
The challenge has already generated a lot of interest. Over 150 teams have registered, most of which are 1-2 member teams. It would not be surprising to see a significant number of others joining us in the coming months. The teams include participants from around the world, including Kenya, Iran, Ukraine, South Korea, Taiwan and beyond. Creating a simulation experience on Mars is clearly an exciting opportunity.
There are certainly fair criticisms to be made regarding NASA’s Mars crowdfunding experiments. Out of more than 150 teams who devote their free time to this project, only 20 will earn money. NASA should, by all means, have enough funds to employ development teams to create the experiences it seeks. That doesn’t make the project any less interesting, or the hard work of those development teams any less valuable, of course. Hoping that all Mars projects will be properly presented when the NASA challenge is over.
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