Virtual Ride to Space - a new 3D virtual reality game needs your help on Kickstarter
Virtual Ride to Space - a new 3D virtual reality game needs your help on KickstarterAaron Knoll, Surrey Space Centre

Most people will never get a chance to go to space. So, besides watching the International Space Station's live HD video stream, movies or documentaries, you could consider backing a new game that is gathering funding on Kickstarter.

Researchers from University of Surrey want to send a weather balloon up to space carrying 12 HD GoPro Hero 3 video cameras, in order to create "Virtual Ride to Space", a new game for iOS and Android devices, as well as Oculus Rift virtual reality goggles and PC.

"The technology is all ready to go. We did a test flight of the cameras and also our recovery system on 3 May that went up to 28.5km high," Dr Aaron Knoll, a lecturer of plasma propulsion for spacecraft at Surrey Space Centre and the leader of the team told IBTimes UK.

"We managed to recover all the test hardware back with one camera and it was still usable, so that gives us increased confidence to launch the 12 cameras."

Travelling on a weather balloon

The researchers are trying to create a game that lets you experience space in 360 degrees, as if you're sitting on the weather balloon as it launches from the Earth's surface, up into the atmosphere.

To give you a point of reference, the ISS is in low Earth orbit at an altitude about 433km away from Earth.

In contrast, the weather balloon just needs to go vertically up 30km into space from its high altitude launch pad in Cambridge, where it will hover over the UK, and then come back down, releasing a parachute on the return journey.

The game software is quite affordable, especially if you back the project on Kickstarter, whereby the PC software will cost £4, the smartphone app £5 and the Oculus Rift software £6, or all three for £10.

Changing perceptions of space

Currently, 137 backers have pledged £1,677 ($2,868) in funding on Kickstarter, and the project needs to raise £5,000 within the next 20 days to go ahead.

The game uses the accelerometers on your phone to make it feel like you're sitting on the balloon, and you can do the same using the mouse on your PC. The game will show you literally what you would see if you were flying up there," says Knoll.

"It's a small step to changing public perception of space, something that gives the public a real tangible return in investing in space research.

"Most things the public invests in when it comes to space research are intangible, such as communications or space flights. We want to change it so people can start benefiting from space directly."