TIME Gadgets

You Asked: How Do Virtual Reality Headsets Work?

Virtual Reality
An attendee wears an Oculus Rift HD virtual reality head-mounted display at he plays EVE: Valkyrie, a multiplayer virtual reality dogfighting shooter game, at the Intel booth at the 2014 International CES, January 9, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Robyn Beck—AFP/Getty Images

If it was a simple as strapping a video screen to your face, we’d all have iPhone visors

Microsoft surprised the world Wednesday with a futuristic headset that will beam 3D images right into users’ retinas. This eye-popping technology certainly looks like it’s on the cutting edge, but actually, the biggest part of it — virtual reality — has been around for years. No, I’m not talking about 1995’s Nintendo Virtual Boy, I’m talking about the underlying science of virtual reality, originally started at NASA 25 years ago.

In essence, virtual reality is taking what people expect to see in the real world as they turn left and right or move forwards and backwards, and replacing it with imagery that moves and behaves the same way, says Mark Bolas, associate director of the Institute of Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California.

“Your perceptual system doesn’t really have anything to tell it that it’s not in the virtual world, so it believes it, and you feel as if you’re present, Bolas says. But he isn’t just a mouthpiece for the head-mounted technology — his department at USC is a major reason why we’re seeing a boom in virtual reality today. His team once included Scott Fisher, who directed NASA’s early virtual reality efforts, and Palmer Lucky, founder of Oculus VR, a leading maker of virtual reality headsets.

To start, think of virtual reality as a stereo video instead of a 3D movie, says Bolas. “When you’re in the theater [for a 3D movie], you see a 3D picture, and you briefly feel presence,” he says. “But if you turn your head left and right, you’re going to see the edges of the screen, so presence is going to be broken.”

On the other hand, virtual reality uses computer graphics, algorithms, and lenses to hide that edge and recalculate the picture as you move. If you turn your head left or right, it will seem like there’s no end to the screen, like it surrounds you in 360 degrees. “All of a sudden, the trick’s complete and you feel like you’re in the space,” says Bolas.

Of course, a 360-degree screen would be prohibitively expensive to make. But Bolas’s lab at USC made a breakthrough in 2011 that helped make virtual reality more realistic, both economically and visually. “We found a magic number for field of view that really gave you this illusion of presence,” says Bolas.

Previous consumer virtual reality displays had fields of view around 40 to 60 degrees, says Bolas. “It’s almost like looking through a toilet paper tube.” By working with an expensive 150-degree screen, USC studied how narrow they could make the field before the feeling of presence was compromised.

“We don’t think about our peripheral vision very much, but it influences us quite a bit,” he says. “It’s wired deep in our brain as a survival mechanism so that if a lion jumps out at you and you see it in your periphery, you react before it ever even gets to the center of your field of view.” The sweet spot for where people catch the lion (or does it catch us?) is around 90 to 100 degrees.

With that figure in mind, USC produced an open source kit that has helped virtual reality developers make more convincing products. And since that time, the technology has taken off, with startups like Oculus getting acquired by Facebook in a $2 billion deal, companies like Sony and Samsung making their own gear, and of course, yesterday’s futuristic announcement from Microsoft.

But the funny thing is, you don’t necessarily need to wait for any of their inventions to try out virtual reality for yourself. In 2012, USC released FOV2GO, a free template for constructing your own virtual reality eyepiece using cardboard and an iPhone 4/4S for a screen. Then, in 2013 they followed up with another free template called VR2GO, which uses the larger-screened iPhone 5 and Android handsets as displays. And the newer model is a 3D-printing file, thank goodness, because mounting a smartphone to your face with cardboard looks awful strange.

TIME Gadgets

Microsoft Wants To End Awful Business Meetings With This Massive Touchscreen

Microsoft Surface Hub
Microsoft Surface Hub Microsoft

Hands-on with the 84-inch Surface Hub

Microsoft got plenty of attention Wednesday for its eye-catching HoloLens, a headset that projects 3-D content into the world around you. But it also unveiled another innovation at its Windows 10 press event that serves a much more pressing purpose: Fixing terrible business meetings.

Microsoft’s new Surface Hub is a massive, Windows 10-powered tablet that takes the whiteboards, speakerphones and video-conferencing solutions that slow down your meetings and packs them into an 84-inch touchscreen 4K display, or for a tighter squeeze, a 55-inch 1080p display. It’s wall-mountable, but Microsoft also sells various Hub-friendly stands.

Because the Surface Hub simulates so many familiar conferencing tools, it’s a breeze to use. The whiteboard app detects the minutest movements of the stylus across the screen, and notes can be saved to the cloud. Presentation materials can be wirelessly shared to the Hub from any participant’s Windows- or Android-powered device, eliminating the time-suck of physically connecting a laptop to a projector.

Then there’s the ultimate bane of the business meeting: The dial-in callers who pile into a single conference line and announce their presence with a mysterious ding. The Surface Hub replaces all that with Skype videoconferencing, with participants appearing in a tidy stack on either side of the screen while dual cameras ensure callers have a clear view of the conference room.

Surface Hub
Surface Hub Microsoft

Microsoft is pitching the Surface Hub as a corporate time-saver, claiming it can whittle down the time it takes to set up a meeting from 12 minutes to a few seconds. But aside from the time savings, the really intriguing application of the Surface Hub is how it changes the way users interact with a presentation. It’s surprising how the simple act of marking up a slide or manipulating graphics can bring a story to life. I lost two minutes tinkering with a meaningless chart of coffee sales because I couldn’t resist dragging and dropping new views of the data into the center of the screen. Even more intriguing was 3-D models of engine parts, which could be rotated with a twist of the hand, giving engineers an opportunity to accelerate conversations about design tweaks.

The Surface Hub might look familiar to you: It was the brainchild of digital touch screen guru Jeff Han, who developed the Election Day touch screens that first cropped up on CNN, giving political analysts a new way of fiddling through voting data in red states and blue states.

Han says no shortage of potential business users contacted him after the election looking for similar tech for their conference rooms. But the massive touch screens were forbiddingly expensive, with costs running upwards of $80,000. Microsoft bought Han’s company, Perceptive Pixels, back in 2012, and got to work bringing down the screens’ price into the realm of an “enterprise” budget.

Still, Microsoft hasn’t said how much the Surface Hub will cost — or when exactly it’ll go on sale. For now, Microsoft will only say it’ll hit store shelves “later this year.”

MONEY Uber

Uber Reveals How Much Its Drivers Really Earn…Sort Of

Uber
Gamma Nine Photography/Uber

Uber says its drivers make $6 more than traditional cab drivers, but the devil is in the details.

Uber has long said its drivers get paid more than traditional cabbies. But do they really?

New data from the ridesharing service itself gives the clearest look into the company’s business—and that of its drivers—than ever before. On Thursday, Uber released two reports: an anonymous survey of 601 Uber drivers and an analysis of the Uber labor market co-authored by Princeton economics professor Alan B. Krueger and Jonathan Hall, Uber’s head of policy research. Together, they provide information on how drivers use Uber, how much they make, and how fast Uber’s business is growing.

The real scoop on wages

The big news in this latest report is wage data. Previously, Uber stated the median driver in New York City was making $90,000 a year in “business income,” but this number was criticized by many because business income doesn’t include costs like gasoline, maintenance, car insurance, health insurance, and, you know, the car itself. Another complaint was that the company wasn’t being clear about how many hours one had to drive in order to make said $90k.

This time around, Uber still isn’t including those costs when calculating drivers’ wages, but it has broken down earnings on a per-hour basis and compared them with government data on how much conventional taxi drivers take home. The results show an Uber driver makes an average of $6 per hour more than the average taxi/chauffeur/limo driver. (The Bureau of Labor Statistics lumps those professions together, which makes for a reasonably fair comparison to Uber’s grouping of commercially licensed Uber Black drivers—a premium service—and lower-paid UberX drivers.)

150122_EM_DriverPayChart
Uber

These numbers are impressive, but Uber acknowledges that its driver-partners “are not reimbursed for driving expenses, such as gasoline, depreciation, or insurance, while employed drivers covered by the OES [Occupational Employment Statistics] data may not have to cover those costs.” So how much do these drivers really make, including expenses? It’s still hard to say. Uber told finance writer Felix Salmon that fuel, gas, maintenance, depreciation, and insurance would add about $15,000 per year in New York City.

That works out to about $7.20 per hour (assuming a 40-hour work week), which would still leave New York Uber drivers ahead, but would seriously cut into Uber’s advantage across the board if costs in other cities are similar. It should also be noted that cab drivers likely share in many of those expenses. But cab drivers may not have to pay for their own vehicle, which drives Uber’s average net hourly wages even lower.

The takeaway from all this? We don’t know much more than before, but it would appear that an Uber driver’s salary is at least on par with that of a normal cab driver, and potentially more.

What kind of jobs is Uber providing?

The good news is that the vast majority of Uber drivers—78%—are satisfied working for the company. But the data also reveal that many drivers see the ride-sharing service as a stopgap measure until they find a better job. The survey results show 32% of drivers said the major reason for partnering with Uber was “to earn money while looking for a steady, full-time job.”

That makes sense considering nearly half of Uber’s drivers have a college degree or higher, well above the 18% of taxi drivers with similar credentials. Indeed, slightly more than half of Uber drivers became inactive one year after joining the service, suggesting they quit or found other work.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. One of Uber’s major selling points is that anyone can drive a car to earn a little extra money, and it has clearly succeeded in this regard. But the numbers demonstrate how Uber isn’t providing a career as much as an income supplement or temporary gig: Just 24% of Uber drivers say the company is their only source of personal income, and another 16% say Uber is their largest source of income but not the only one. Meanwhile, nearly 40% of drivers said Uber did not make up a significant source of their wages.

Stunning growth

Ultimately, it’s up to drivers to choose whether Uber makes sense for them, and the results seem to speak for themselves. In the United States, Uber says, more than 160,000 drivers had partnered with the company by the end of 2014, and almost 40,000 new U.S. drivers provided their first trips in December of last year. Thanks to Uber’s new data release, prospective drivers will have more information than ever when making their decision.

Read next: Uber CEO: We’ll Create 50,000 Jobs in Europe This Year

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Science

How NASA Finds ‘Super Earths’ Where Alien Life Might Flourish

NASA's Kepler mission recently announced the discovery of three earth-like planets existing in a star's "Goldilocks zone."

Since 2009 NASA’s Kepler Mission has been exploring the Milky Way using an extraordinary powerful space telescope. Their mission is to discover “exoplanets” or Earth-like planets that could, in theory, be habitable for human life.

But what makes a planet habitable?

Scientists say habitable planets should be in an area round the star known as the “Goldilocks zone,” where it isn’t too hot or cold for water to exist on the surface in liquid form. Thus far, the mission has confirmed many such candidates, including a significant discovery of three planets announced in January 2015.

Jeffrey Kluger explains the significance of this newest discovery and the importance for humanity to continue space exploration.

TIME Mobile

Google Is Reportedly Prepping a Wireless Service

The Google Inc. company logo is seen on an Apple Inc. iPhone 4 smartphone in this arranged photograph in London, U.K., on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012.
Bloomberg/Getty Images

New initiative would expand Google's quest to provide the world's Internet access

Google has been providing ultra high-speed home Internet to select cities for several years — but now it wants to be your mobile carrier, too.

The company is reportedly planning to launch its own cell phone service, according to The Information and the Wall Street Journal. Google has made deals with T-Mobile and Sprint to resell portions of their networks under a Google-branded name, a common practice by small wireless carriers known as mobile virtual network operators. Though T-Mobile and Sprint would still own the networks, Google would set its own prices and deal directly with customers.

Neither a launch window nor a price range for the service were disclosed.

Launching a wireless service would be another big step in Google’s quest to deliver Internet service directly to customers. Google Fiber is already providing broadband access in several U.S. cities, Project Loon aims to use balloons to bring remote areas online, and the company’s big investment in SpaceX could be a sign that it wants to use satellites to expand Internet connectivity as well.

But well-established ISPs and telecommunication companies won’t simply stand idle as Google takes their business. Sprint is reserving the right to renegotiate its terms with Google if the new service proves popular, according to the Journal.

Google and T-Mobile did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Sprint declined to comment.

TIME apps

Now You Can Turn Your Instagrams Into Fake Tattoos

TIME.com stock photos Social Apps iPhone Instagram
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Picattoo: For people who love their selfies a little too much

Turning your Instagrams into nail art is so passé: There’s now an app that converts your Instas into fake tattoos, because nothing says “I really enjoyed my Crab Cakes Eggs Benedict” like temporarily tattooing it on your forehead.

For $14.99, Picattoo will ship users a 12-pack of “Insta-tats” worldwide. The Netherlands-based service, created by the company Ink361, laser prints users personal Instagrams on temporary tattoo paper. And unless the wearer decides to “scratch it off with rusty nails”—the app’s FAQ section gets a little too real—the product should last up to a week.

For the person who wants to immortalize their cat Instas on more than just their forearms, you can also print your pictures on marshmallows and sneakers.

And after all the time it took for you to pick the perfect filter, your Instagram deserves it.

(h/t: TechCrunch)

TIME Davos

How Technology Is Making All of Us Less Trusting

A technician checks the light in the Congress Hall before the start of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2014 in Davos Jan. 21, 2014
Denis Balibouse / Reuters

The world's major tech companies better pay attention to the growing backlash — before it's too late

Davos Man, take note: the technology that has enriched you is moving too fast for the average Joe.

That’s the takeaway from the 2015 Trust Barometer survey, released by public relations firm Edelman every year at the World Economic Forum in Davos. This year’s survey, which came out Wednesday, looks at thousands of consumers in 27 countries to get a sense of public trust in business, government, NGOs and media. This year, it’s falling across the board, with two-thirds of nations’ citizens being more distrustful than ever of all institutions, perhaps no surprise given that neither the private nor the public sector seems to have answers to the big questions of the day — geopolitical conflict, rising inequality, flat wages, market volatility, etc.

What’s interesting is how much people blame technology and the speed of technological change for the feeling of unease in the world today. Two to one, consumers in all the countries surveyed felt that technology was moving too quickly for them to cope with, and that governments and business weren’t doing enough to assess the long-term impact of shifts like GMO foods, fracking, disruptors like Uber or Apple Pay, or any of the myriad other digital services that affect privacy and security of people and companies.

That belies the conventional wisdom among tech gurus like, say, Jeff Bezos, who once said that, “New inventions and things that customers like are usually good for society.” Maybe, but increasingly people aren’t feeling that way. And it could have an impact on the regulatory environment facing tech companies. Expect more pushback on sharing-economy companies that skirt local regulation, a greater focus on the monopoly power of mammoth tech companies, and closer scrutiny of the personal wealth of tech titans themselves.

Two of the most interesting pieces of journalism I have read in recent years look at how the speed of digital change is affecting culture and public sentiment. Kurt Andersen’s wonderful Vanity Fair story from January 2012, posited the idea that culture is stuck in retro mode — think fashion’s obsession with past decades, and the nostalgia that’s rife in TV and film — because technology and globalization are moving so fast that people simply can’t take any more change, cognitively at least. Likewise, Leon Wieseltier’s sharp essay on the cover of the New York Times book review this past Sunday lamented how the fetishization of all things Big Tech has led us to focus on the speed, brevity and monetization of everything, to the detriment of “deep thought” and a broader understanding of the human experience.

I agree on both counts. And I hope that some of the tech luminaries here at Davos, like Marissa Mayer, Eric Schmidt and Sheryl Sandberg, are paying attention to this potential growing backlash, which I expect will heat up in the coming year.

TIME Innovation

Here’s What It’s Like to Use Microsoft’s Amazing New Holographic Headset

HoloLens
Windows

The coolest new product to come out of Microsoft in decades, the HoloLens, can overlay 3-D images on real-world surroundings, mixing of fantasy and reality

After tickling pint-sized sheep across a coffee table, blowing a holographic hole through a wall and touring the surface of Mars, it seems safe to say that Microsoft’s newly unveiled headset, the HoloLens, marks a major leap forward in the field of virtual reality.

Microsoft unveiled the HoloLens during a Windows 10 press conference at its Redmond, Washington headquarters on Wednesday. Rather than immerse the user in a digital fantasy world, like the Oculus Rift, the HoloLens overlays 3-D images on top of real-world surroundings, blurring the line between fantasy and reality.

No recording devices were allowed into the demonstration rooms, which were hidden beneath the ground floor of Microsoft’s Visitor Center and secured behind locked doors. Unlike the sleek, donut-shaped headset unveiled on stage, the prototypes in the demonstration were skeletal contraptions that wrapped around the cranium and included a small computer slung around the neck. The weight was easy to ignore once the technicians fired up a game of Minecraft and the game’s fantasy world sprawled out over real world living room furniture.

As the headset’s spatial sensors scanned their surroundings, a pulse of blue light passed over the tabletop and slipped around the corners. Suddenly a slightly translucent image of a castle rose from the tabletop. Beneath it, a pool of blue water was spread across the floor and thumb-sized sheep grazed at the water’s edge. The images are projected directly into the user’s eye and precisely turn with the user’s movements.

While the images appear to fade away at the periphery, a turn of the head quickly fills in the blank with new terrain. Users can interact with their surroundings by training their eyes on any object of interest, holding out a pointer finger and “air tapping” it with a downward flick. Air tap a holographic shovel, for instance, and it punches a hole through the coffee table. A soft beam of light passes through the opening and casts a bright patch on the floor.

The holes can offer keyhole glimpses into new terrains. Beneath the side table was a lake of lava. After a blowing a hole through the wall, a passageway to a cave opened, complete with bats flitting back out towards the user. But the highlight of the demonstration had to be the bizarre-yet-satisfying pleasure of tickling miniature sheep across a table, and watching one poor creature take a lemming-like leap over the table’s edge.

The second demonstration suspended a Skype video screen in mid-air. The caller, a Microsoft engineer, shared my view on her screen and directed me toward a scattering of tools. She then guided me through a real world installation of a light switch, with her drawing holographic arrows at the tools I needed each step of the way. It worked, and it showcased the HoloLens ability to stick an expert into a novice’s field of vision, instantly eliminating the skills gap.

A third demonstration projected photographic landscapes of Mars, snapped by NASA’s mars rover, in a surprisingly crisp image of its cracked and rocky surface. Microsoft has partnered with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab to simulate exploratory missions on Mars. A real-world monitor showed the two-dimensional landscape on a conventional screen, but pull the mouse cursor beyond the screen’s edge and it floats seamlessly into the 3-dimensional landscape, where a mouse click can plant a holographic flag into the ground.

A final demonstration showed how models can be constructed in space, by pinching pre-fabricated shapes, rotating them and gluing them together. A “perfect print preview for 3-D printing,” explained a Microsoft engineer as a coworker put the finishing touches on a koala wearing a space helmet. Moments later they distributed 3-D printed models of the same koala in a goodie bag.

To be sure, these were highly stage managed interactions with the HoloLens, and it remains to be seen how it will fare for the average consumer. When that will happen remains an open question. The HoloLens has been under development for at least five years, and its lead inventor, Alex Kipman, said the product would release sometime “within the Windows 10 timeframe,” which could mean a matter of years.

Still, the technology is mind-bendingly cool. If the experiences in the demonstration rooms can be carried over into the real world, Microsoft may have a shot at reclaiming the mobile market, leapfrogging over the current jumble of smartphones, tablets and phablets, and into the next generation of augmented reality.

TIME Video Games

These Will Be the Hottest Wii U Games of 2015

Check out the biggest Nintendo-exclusive games coming to Wii U in 2015

Here’s a look at the year’s 10 most anticipated games for Nintendo’s Wii U console, including Mario Party 10, Xenoblade Chronicles X and The Legend of Zelda.

  • Kirby and the Rainbow Curse

    The latest Kirby platformer rolls Nintendo’s cutesy pink blob into a tiny ball, then sends him wheeling through colorful levels, guided by rainbow-like lines players draw on the Wii U GamePad’s touchscreen. Nintendo says the game will feature amiibo support for Kirby, as well as series regulars Meta Knight and King Dedede.

    February 20

  • Mario Party 10

    The first Mario Party game for Wii U (and tenth in the main series) adds two new modes: Bowser Party and amiibo Party. In Bowser Party, four players can square off with a fifth (Bowser), attempting to reach the end of a game board without being caught, while in amiibo Party, up to four players compete on game boards specially tailored for each figurine.

    March 20

  • Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars

    Sixth in the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series, Tipping Stars takes the classic approach–create your own side-scrolling, puzzle-driven levels, then share them with others online–then adds a “tipping” rewards system: stars you earn by beating levels can be cashed in for level parts, or passed along to designers you like, providing them with additional creative resources.

    March 5

  • Splatoon

    Splatoon was one of the best things I played at E3 2014, both a whimsical sendup of carnage-laced competitive shooters and a clever rethink of the genre’s tropes. Imagine a 4 vs. 4 action game that lets you spray ink all over the screen like You Can’t Do That on Television‘s slime pumped through Super Soakers. The basic idea’s simple enough: whoever’s team covers the most square footage with their color of ink wins.

    May 2015

  • Mario Maker

    Want to build your own side-scrolling Super Mario Bros. levels? Skin those levels to look like different Mario games, from the NES’s glory 8-bit days to the Wii U’s slick, high definition New Super Mario Bros. U? Do all that from the comfort and convenience of the Wii U GamePad? Share your levels with others online?

    TBD 2015

  • Star Fox

    Nintendo hasn’t released videos or stills of its upcoming Star Fox game for Wii U–the brief above is of various putatively related mini-games–but I was one of a few allowed to go hands-on with an experimental version at E3 last summer. Still a spaceship-based shooter, the demo had me use the GamePad’s motion sensors to aim my Arwing’s weapons, simultaneously controlling the craft by thumbing the joysticks to accelerate or turn and pull off signature moves like barrel rolls, loops and the tactically essential Immelman turn. And the Arwing could still morph into a land tank, rocketing down to the surface of a planet, then rattling around the battlefield and laying waste to the landscape.

    TBD 2015

  • Yoshi’s Woolly World

    As yarn to Kirby, so wool to Yoshi: Yoshi’s Woolly World takes that notion–inflecting conventional platforming ideas with knitting materials–and wraps it around Nintendo’s iconic dinosaur. More than a visual re-skinning of the Yoshi’s Island series, Yoshi’s Woolly World imbues Yoshi with filament-manipulating abilities, including an entourage of colorific, puzzle-solving yarn balls.

    TBD 2015

  • Xenoblade Chronicles X

    There’s no more anticipated game than Xenoblade Chronicles X in 2015’s lineup, across every platform, for me. It may lack Halo 5 or Uncharted 4‘s star power and broader genre appeal, but I’d nonchalantly throw those games under a bus to play this one. (That is, assuming developer Monolith’s crafted something as vast, dynamic and compulsive as Xenoblade Chronicles–we’ll see.)

    TBD 2015

  • The Legend of Zelda

    Tantamount to last year’s Wii U-saving Mario Kart 8, The Legend of Zelda is Nintendo’s most elevated of games, expectation-wise, this year. Teased at E3 last year and again in December, the first console-based Zelda game since 2011’s Skyward Sword for Wii looks to be Nintendo’s take on the open world genre, dropping you into a vast fantasy world while at the same time subverting many of the series’ tropes.

    TBD 2015

  • Wii Games on Wii U

    Missed the Wii’s halcyon hits? Nintendo just added native Wii support to the Wii U, meaning you can now purchase and play discounted Nintendo eShop versions of games like Super Mario Galaxy 2 (available now), Punch-Out!! (January 22) and Metroid Prime Trilogy (January 29) without the need to clumsily boot into “Wii Mode.” And if the game supported the Wii Classic/Pro Controller, you can sub in the Wii U GamePad, too.

TIME astronomy

The Microsoft HoloLens Is Going to Let Scientists Walk Around Mars

Joe Belfiore, Alex Kipman, Terry Myerson
Microsoft's Joe Belfiore, from left, Alex Kipman, and Terry Myerson playfully pose for a photo while wearing "Hololens" devices following an event demonstrating new features of Windows 10 at the company's headquarters on Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015 Elaine Thompson—AP

Strap on your headset for a tour of the red planet

Microsoft and NASA have jointly developed software that will allow scientists to remotely walk around Mars using the wearable Microsoft HoloLens, a hologram tool designed to view and interact with 3D images.

Created in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California, the technology, called OnSight, helps researchers prepare for future Mars-based operations by entering its richly-detailed environment, NASA announced in a news release.

Before this, scientists examined 2D digital representations of Mars, which geospatial depth.

“OnSight gives our rover scientists the ability to walk around and explore Mars right from their offices,” said Dave Lavery, program executive of of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory.

“Previously, our Mars explorers have been stuck on one side of a computer screen. This tool gives them the ability to explore the rover’s surroundings much as an Earth geologist would do field work here on our planet,” said Jeff Norris, the OnSight project manager.

NASA intends to use OnSight in future rover operations and on a Curiosity mission this year.

[NASA]

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