America’s space agency, NASA, has partnered with the pioneering video game and software developer, Epic Games, to facilitate a ‘challenge’ for game developers to create virtual reality assets and experiences based on Mars. The ultimate objective of the initiative is to help humanity get ready for an eventual trip to the Red Planet.
The challenge is powered by the HeroX platform, which enables organizations to crowdsource solutions for innovative projects. The developers have to use Unreal Engine 5 to create their Mars assets and experiences, which would then be imported to NASA’s Mars XR Operations Support System environment.
The MarsXR environment already packs a massive chunk of content to help the developers get started. It includes a world of over 400 km^2 of Mars terrain, day/night cycles on the planet, weather conditions, simulated Mars gravity, and other crucial assets, such as spacesuits and rovers. The developers can use these assets within their own custom experiences.
NASA has specified five categories of experiences that it is looking for – Set Up Camp, Scientific Research, Maintenance, Exploration, and Blow Our Minds. The contest involves twenty individual prices, four for each category, with a total prize pool of $7,000. The overall winner for each category will also earn $6,000. The participants have 80 days to deliver their entry for the challenge.
Over 150 teams have already entered the contest, and this number is expected to increase over the next few months rapidly. Participants are expressing interest from across the world, including Kenya, Iran, Ukraine, South Korea, Taiwan, and beyond.
However, the agency is also facing some criticism for ‘crowdfunding’ Mars experiences. Only twenty will be rewarded with any money from over the 150 teams and more participating in the initiative. All we can expect is that the projects created by all the participants are correctly demonstrated post the challenge’s conclusion.
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