News: Virgin Galactic App Uses Augmented Reality to Let You Sample Space Tourism with Richard Branson

Virgin Galactic App Uses Augmented Reality to Let You Sample Space Tourism with Richard Branson

Billionaire Richard Branson did his part to advance space tourism this weekend by beating Elon Musk (SpaceX) and Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin) to become the first among them to travel into space.

And while the pricey trips to copy Branson's space flight via Virgin Galactic won't open to the public until 2022, you can get a taste of the journey now in augmented reality.

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During the height of the global pandemic in 2020, Virgin Galactic released an AR app designed to promote its space tourism venture, but most people had their attention turned toward more Earthly concerns.

Now that things have normalized a bit, it's time to take a closer look at Virgin Galactic's app and its array of features that tease the space tourism experience.

Adario Strange/Next Reality. Images by Adario Strange/Next Reality

In addition to voice-overs and video content featuring Branson and his team, the app, which is available for iOS and Android devices, is divided into five different sections, each with an AR component.

The Space Dreamer section shows off the Virgin Galactic spaceport (located in New Mexico) and its ground crew, along with information about the astronauts involved and the process of preparing for launch. You also get a model of the VSS Unity spacecraft and its four-engine aircraft booster called the VMS Eve.

In the Technologist section, we get an immersive look at the specially designed chairs that space tourists will use to recline and relax in while being subjected to g-forces as they escape the gravity of Earth.

Over in the Thrill Seeker we're treated to an AR version of the spacecraft's launch, journey through space, and final descent back down to terra firma. In the Reflector area, the app opens a virtual window into space, which is situated in your personal space. And if you step through the porthole you'll find yourself immersed in a fully virtualized version of space.

Images by Adario Strange/Next Reality

Finally, in the Total Astronaut section, Virgin Galactic lets us sit inside a virtual version of the VSS Unity spacecraft, complete with the ability to walk back and forth and even peek outside.

Every AR feature in the app can be captured using an in-app feature designed to let you share your images with friends. You also have the ability to rotate, zoom, and increase the size of every virtual construct, giving users the ability to really explore the details of Virgin Galactic's space product.

As a preview to the real thing, this is the perfect early look for those who have casually heard about the upcoming practice of space tourism but needed an immersive visual aid to really nail down what Branson and his crew are offering compared to the soon to be revealed offerings from Blue Origin and the Mars-bound SpaceX team.

If you missed Sunday's space flight, you can check it out in the video below.

Cover image via Virgin Galactic

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