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A weather balloon will carry 24 HD video cameras up to a 20km altitude in order to reconstruct an immersive ride to space. Read more

Surrey, UK Technology
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£6,061
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A weather balloon will carry 24 HD video cameras up to a 20km altitude in order to reconstruct an immersive ride to space.

Surrey, UK Technology
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About this project

-Update-

If you missed our Kickstarter campaign, but still want to participate in this project you're in luck!  We're planning to re-launch the KickStarter campaign incorporating all of the feedback we've received.  Importantly: we'll be offering the rewards at a greatly reduced price.

For updates, and to participate in the new and improved campaign, please check our project website for details.

Also, a big thank you to all of our supporters who pledged toward this project!

In the media:

 VR2Space in the MailOnline...                      VR2Space in ScienceDaily...

VR2Space in Pocket-lint...                                   VR2Space in Stuff.tv...

VR2Space in Tom's Hardware...                         VR2Space in TopNews...

VR2Space on CNET...                                        VR2Space of Phys.Org...

 VR2Space on TechWorld...                 VR2Space on The Gadget Show...

If you're anything like me, then you've been dreaming about traveling to space since you can remember. But if you're not an astronaut, and you don't happen to be sitting on a mountain made of money, then this simply won't happen by sitting around and waiting.

As of January 3rd, 2013, only 530 people have ever traveled to space. Well, lucky them... but what about the rest of us? This project is about enabling us, the remaining 99.999992%, to get that experience. Well, at least as close as we can offer for £40.

This project will use video footage collected by 24 GoPro cameras that are carried to the edge of space (20km) by a high altitude balloon to reconstruct a virtual immersive recreation of the journey. While we think this could be pretty cool, let’s be honest… the agreed upon ‘boundary to space’ is 100km, so this isn’t quite the whole way. What would be WAY cooler is a virtual experience of a complete orbit around the earth on a proper satellite! For instance, by equipping one of our future Surrey Space Centre satellite platforms with panoramic high definition cameras. As you can imagine, this would require much more of an investment than the balloon project. We are using this balloon project to get a feel for how the general public would support (or not) the idea of a virtual orbit around the earth. Also, the lessons learned on the software and hardware developments will be essential building blocks on the way.

For this project the experience is everything, so we're going with the cutting edge of available technology.  The Oculus Rift, developed by Oculus VR, is an unparallelled virtual reality headset, which delivers a high definition wide field of view 3-dimensional virtual environment for the user.  But it's not just about great visuals, we want to create a whole experience.  A soundtrack feature will overlay music on top of actual audio recorded by the cameras.  Plus, you can incorporate your own MP3 playlist instead of the default audio tracks.  The software will allow you to slow down, speed up, or even reverse time. All with an immersive panoramic view of the earth as you ascend slowly to space.

What if I don't have an Oculus Rift?  Don't worry, you won't be left out. We want everyone to be able to enjoy this experience, so we're creating two additional versions of the software to work with your smartphone and personal computer.  For the smartphone package, the camera view will be controlled by the 3D orientation of the phone itself using built-in gyroscope and accelerometer data.  For the PC version, the camera view will be controlled using the mouse (similar to a FPS game).  Either way, you'll be able to look around freely in real-time as if you were a virtual passenger riding the balloon to space.

In order to create this virtual experience, we need to first gather raw video data from the real world.  This is where the balloon and payload come into play.  There are three essential elements to this device: a weather balloon, a recovery parachute, and payload electronics.  The weather balloon is designed to carry the payload and parachute to an altitude of 20km (twice the height of a commercial airplane) and then burst.  The device then descends to the ground using the recovery parachute where it can be collected.  All this time, the payload electronics are recording video footage that will be stitched together afterward in order to recreate the ascent as an immersive panoramic environment.

Schematic:

The primary purpose of the payload is to gather the raw video footage during the ascent into space.  There are also several other essential tasks the payload needs to perform.  First, it needs to keep track of the position and orientation of the balloon so that the raw video data can be correctly mapped onto the virtual environment.  It is likely that the balloon will spin and swing during the trip, so this motion needs to be captured and corrected during the data post-processing.  Second, the payload needs to transmit its location at the end of the trip so that we can find it once it lands.  This will be accomplished using a SPOT Satellite Messenger.  Finally, the payload needs to keep everything warm inside the enclosure so the the electronics keep on ticking.  It can be really cold in the upper atmosphere (an average of -55C), so a hand warmer is used to keep everything cozy.

Cutaway View:

The wide angle lens of the GoPro Hero 3 cameras allows highly redundant capture of the full 4π steradian field of view (complete spherical field of view).

 Side View:

 Top View:

April 2014:  Money arrives for the KickStarter project and work kicks-off.

May 2014:  Parts and materials are sources and procured.

June 2014:  Dry run launch attempt(s).  Dummy payload is launched and recovery is attempted.  Process iterates until we are confident in our ability to successfully launch and recover our system. 

July 2014:  Grand launch attempt.  Complete payload including all 24 GoPro Hero 3 cameras are launched and recovered.

August 2014:  Redundant launch attempt (if needed).

September 2014 onward:  Development of Oculus VR, smartphone, and PC software.

April 2015:  Project completion.

Google Plus: http://goo.gl/y2nNtu

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VR2Space

Twitter: https://twitter.com/vr2space

Risks and challenges

We're trying to send something into space, so you'd better believe that things could go wrong! Have you ever heard the phrase "Hope for the best, but plan for the worst"? Well, that's our chosen design philosophy for this project. We've got a series of trial runs and practice launches leading to our grand attempt. Then, if something does go wrong, we've got room in our schedule (and budget) to try the whole thing again.

What we're aiming to do is ambitious, yes, but we're meeting this challenge head-on with brute force engineering.

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

FAQ

  • At this point we're intending to distribute the software via DVDs or USB keys. The software bundle could end up being quite large (several gigabytes) because of all the HD video footage. Even though many of us are lucky enough to have broadband internet these days, we didn't want to alienate people with slow access to the internet.

    Last updated:

Rewards

  • You selected
    £1 reward

    27 backers

    JPEGS FROM SPACE: Thank you for helping us make this project a reality. Once we’ve retrieved the high altitude balloon, we’ll put together a digital photo-pack of the voyage and e-mail it to the supporters in this category (and also to all of the other pledge amounts). Your support means a lot to us… so let’s make this happen together!

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    £10 reward

    7 backers

    SPACE POST CARD: Thanks for supporting this project! You'll receive a commemorative postcard taken from one of the HD cameras at 20km altitude, and we'll keep you up to date with exclusive behind the scenes updates on our progress throughout the project.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    £20 reward

    8 backers

    SPACE POSTER: The perfect decoration for your room or office (makes a great gift too)! You'll receive a poster size print of an image taken from one of the HD cameras at 20km altitude. Plus, we'll keep you up to date with exclusive behind the scenes updates on our progress throughout the project. Please add £5 for international shipping.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    £30 reward

    14 backers

    PC SOFTWARE EXPERIENCE: Don't have an Oculus Rift but still want the experience? Then this option is for you. Enjoy the virtual ride to space on your personal computer. Interactive breathtaking panoramic views! Slow down, speed up, or even reverse time. Makes a great screensaver too! Plus, we'll keep you up to date with exclusive behind the scenes updates on our progress throughout the project. Please add £5 for international shipping.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    £35 reward

    7 backers

    SMART PHONE EXPERIENCE: Ride to space using your mobile phone! A panoramic interactive media experience you can carry in your pocket. Point your phone in the direction you want to look and enjoy a seamless environment as you float to space. Slow down, speed up, or even reverse time. Incorporate your own mp3 playlist as a sound overlay. Plus, we'll keep you up to date with exclusive behind the scenes updates on our progress throughout the project. Please add £5 for international shipping.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    £40 reward

    2 backers

    YOUR NAME IN SPACE: In addition to the camera payload, the balloon will carry a ribbon of printed names, one for each backer in this pledge category. After the mission, we will send you your name and an official signed letter of authentication stating that it has been carried to space and back. Plus, we'll keep you up to date with exclusive behind the scenes updates on our progress throughout the project.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    £50 reward

    29 backers

    OCULUS EXPERIENCE: This is the full software package for the Oculus Rift. Immerse yourself in the experience as you ascend to space! Enjoy unparalleled views. Slow down, speed up, or even reverse time. Compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux. Plus, we'll keep you up to date with exclusive behind the scenes updates on our progress throughout the project. Please add £5 for international shipping.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    £65 reward

    5 backers

    OCULUS EXPERIENCE + SMART PHONE EXPERIENCE: Can’t decide between the Oculus and smart phone versions? Have them both! Immerse yourself in the experience as you ascend to space using the Oculus Rift! Then, ride to space using your mobile phone. A panoramic interactive media experience you can carry in your pocket. Plus, we'll keep you up to date with exclusive behind the scenes updates on our progress throughout the project. Please add £5 for international shipping.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    £75 reward

    0 backers

    LIVE WEBCAST: Want to get behind the scenes? Watch the launch of the balloon, retrieval, and interview with the engineers live as it happens via webcast (July 2014)! We'll also make the complete recording available for download to all pledge supporters in this category.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    £85 reward

    0 backers

    LIVE WEBCAST + PC SOFTWARE EXPERIENCE: Watch the launch of the balloon, retrieval, and interview with the engineers live as it happens via webcast (July 2014). Plus, experience the virtual ride to space using your personal computer afterward. We'll also make the complete webcast recording available for download to all pledge supporters in this category.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    £90 reward

    1 backer

    LIVE WEBCAST + SMART PHONE EXPERIENCE: Watch the launch of the balloon, retrieval, and interview with the engineers live as it happens via webcast (July 2014). Plus, experience the virtual ride to space using your mobile phone. Point your phone in the direction you want to look and enjoy a seamless environment as you float to space. We'll also make the complete webcast recording available for download to all pledge supporters in this category.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    £100 reward

    5 backers

    LIVE WEBCAST + OCULUS EXPERIENCE: Watch the launch of the balloon, retrieval, and interview with the engineers live as it happens via webcast (July 2014). Plus, get the full software package for the Oculus Rift. Immerse yourself in the experience as you ascend to space! We'll also make the complete webcast recording available for download to all pledge supporters in this category.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    £150 reward

    2 backers

    ENGINEER’S DREAM BUNDLE: This is for all you DIY enthusiasts out there… learn how to recreate this project on your own! We’ll send you the complete engineering data pack following the mission. This includes engineering drawings, circuit schematics, assembly diagrams, launch profiles, software code, and our raw experimental data. Go on… send something to space!

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    £500 reward

    0 backers Limited (20 left of 20)

    BE THERE IN PERSON: The ultimate way to get involved! Join us for the day (July 2014) as we travel to our launch site in South East England to set off the balloon. Then join us in the hunt to retrieve the balloon, and the celebration party that follows! Includes everything for the day once you arrive (food + drinks + transportation). Open to everyone, but unfortunately you'll have to pay to travel to the South East UK if you're not already here :-)

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    £600 reward

    0 backers Limited (20 left of 20)

    BE THERE IN PERSON + ALL OF THE ABOVE: Want the complete package? Join us for the day (July 2014) as we travel to our launch site in South East England to set off the balloon. Then join us in the hunt to retrieve the balloon, and the celebration party that follows! Plus, you'll receive absolutely everything that we have to offer: post card, poster, PC + smart phone + Oculus version of the software experience, your name in space, and a recording of the webcast to keep as a souvenir. You really can have it all!

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    £2,000 reward

    1 backer

    CORPORATE SPONSOR PACKAGE: Does your company want to help turn dreams into reality? Give us a hand by becoming a corporate sponsor. Your organization name and logo will appear on our website, social media, promotional videos, and products as an official sponsor. Plus, as an added bonus, you'll receive: 20 x post cards, 10 x posters, PC + smart phone + Oculus version of the software experience.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world

Funding period

- (30 days)