By Stan Bujak
Imagine traveling 935,581,827 miles to Saturn to be submerged in a submarine into a sea of liquid hydrogen on a planet that is nine times the size of the Earth. The team at the Graphics and Visualization Lab (GVIS) at the NASA Glenn Research Center has created this virtual reality simulator to help scientists explore Saturn’s surface. Wearing 3-D virtual reality glasses, one can navigate with joysticks under this virtual sea in 360° horizontal by 180° vertical, thus transforming a 2-D computer screen to a 3-D virtual reality experience. Videomapping Lake Erie as a model, they have created this augmented reality for educational and scientific analysis.
The GVIS lab has a diverse creative team consisting of seven programmers who develop code for scientific data that visually expresses engineering principles. There is one 3-D graphic illustrator who use Maya® 3-D animation, modeling, simulation, and rendering software. There are three game developers who create 3-D virtual modeling and movement capabilities using Unity® for both Mac and PC platforms. Additionally, there is a UNIX coordinator who combines all of the different creative platforms and merges them into a single streamlined presentation. They also collaborate with videographers and sound designers creating templates for the artist and creating the virtual reality experience.
In addition, practical testing 3-D models have been developed so that astronauts could understand and then locate every sky lab component. Moving through the virtual sky lab, one becomes familiar with cargo bays, wash facilities, waste disposal units, and much more, moving from one area to the next. To show the surface of Mars, the team created a 3-D 360° virtual world from the viewpoint of the Mars Rover.
The GVIS lab has also developed an airflow dynamics visual display monitor. In this demonstration, programmers worked with a graphic artist to develop color schemes that show the variance of air pressure on any given object. They created silhouettes of actual objects—planes, shapes, and sharks too!—each placed on the monitor board to visualize airflow dynamics.
Finally, they presented 3-D thermal recognition virtual reality glasses that measure heat dispersion and transfer. When a person places their hand on a surface, the virtual glasses detect the heat transfer of the person’s hand, much like the alien, thermal-recognition scenes in the movie Predator.
The breaking news is that GVIS is in the process of upgrading their video production capabilities to process all video presentations in 5K.
Thanks to our NASA tour guide Herb Shilling and to everyone at the GVIS lab for an out-of-this-world experience without having to travel light years to get there. For more information on the NASA Glenn Research Center GVIS Lab, visit www.grc.nasa.gov/gvis/
Stan Bujak is a co-owner of In2 Marketing Solutions, a small advertising and graphic design company specializing in ad campaigns, business graphics, trade show banners and displays, video presentations, photo correction and manipulation, package design and development, and sales support materials. They also provide strategic planning and marketing. For more details, visit in2marketingsolutions.com, in2retouching.com, in2graphicdesign.com, yoocountretouching.com, and in2fineart.com.