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Take a virtual ride to space using the Oculus Rift


Most Kickstarter campaigns are selling a product of some sort, but this one is all about the experience. This campaign promises a virtual ride into space designed to be compatible with the Oculus Rift head-mounted display. Its the next best (and far cheaper) thing to paying Virgin Galactic to blast you into the upper atmosphere.

The aptly named Virtual Ride to Space Kickstarter is planning to use a weather balloon and 24 GoPro Hero3 HD cameras with wide angle lenses to record the entire ascent to an altitude of 20 kilometers. The cameras will be mounted in a custom styrofoam enclosure with an electronics stack based on an Arduino microcontroller. It will have SD card storage for the video, gyro sensors, a heater, pressure sensors, and a GPS receiver so the payload can be found upon its return to Earth.

20 kilometers is more than twice the height of a commercial airliner, but its not quite space. Thats agreed to start at about 100km. However, this trip to the edge of space will be high enough to offer a better look at the stars and the curvature of the Earth. When the balloon reaches its maximum altitude, it will burst and release the payload. Friction from the atmosphere will cause the parachute to deploy and set the contraption down safely.

The video gathered by the cameras will be stitched together into a full 360-degree panorama of the entire trip. The premiere experience for this project will be with the Oculus Rift. Youll be able to turn your head and look around as if you were actually dangling from a balloon thousands of feet above Earth, which might actually be a bit disconcerting. Those without an Oculus Rift can still get a version of the video on smartphones and PC.

If the project can reach its £30,000 goal, the launch will take place in July 2014. The team expects to have the software done by April of 2015. The Oculus video requires a £50 pledge, but its only £35 for the smartphone and £30 for PC (about $50).

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