Check out the Glenn Research Center’s new VR experience, and find out how they did it.
Sure, it’s useful to create a VR tour to help sell a house, but NASA’s got something far more interesting right now. Users can now take a walk through the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Right now, there are seven different labs to look at. I think they’ve done a pretty great job of explaining things in each tour, preventing users from getting too lost.
My favorite part is the Zero-G lab, where you can see a container drop 432 ft (132 m) into a pit of expanded polystyrene beads. You can check it out here, and make sure to actually read about it with the hot spots.
Jordan Salkin, a Scientific Imaging Specialist at NASA, brought me through her process. The imaging department started the process two or three years ago, and has been refining it since. They started off with a simple, single lens, camera, but have since graduated to a 8K camera with 6 lenses from Insta360.
“Another great aspect about this project is that it involves the majority of our groups in our department,” I was told. It involves the digital photography group and video group, who provide additional material for the clickable hot spots. Then the multimedia group provides graphics and 3D animation, before the social media team dictates where each image gets used within the virtual space.
This is one of Salkin's static 360 images. Unfortunately, I can't embed NASA's full virtual tour; you can find that here.
Working at NASA
“I was always interested in math and science, but I also had a huge passion for photography,” Salkin mentioned. She was lucky to find the best of both worlds, studying Scientific Photography at Rochester Institute of Technology. Apparently most students wind up in “ophthalmic field or find jobs in microscopy, forensics, or photographic technology.”
However, Salkin wound up at NASA right after graduation in a job many of us would dream to have. It seems like she took a very official path into the industry, unlike a lot of hobbyist-turned-pro shuttle launch photographers. “I feel like I’m contributing important imagery to the science industry and believe my work truly matters.”
NASA’s Venture in Virtual Reality
We’ve covered NASA’s affinity with Hasselblad in the past, but surely, the agency has plenty of use for a 360-degree field of view. Check out how NASA is using the tech to train astronauts, with The Verge, below.
I hope that Salkin continues to create virtual reality content for NASA. Perhaps it will inspire more young people to discover an education in STEM subjects, and it surely helps invigorate an appreciation for the work the agency does. After all, stunning rocket launches in Florida wouldn’t exist without the groundbreaking research behind the scenes.