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Oculus Rift to Be Used as Eyes on the Moon in Google-Sponsored Lunar Mission

The Oculus Rift virtual reality (VR) head-mounted display (HMD) has quickly gained traction outside of the videogame industry. This week has seen the reveal of perhaps the most intriguing use for the technology yet. The Oculus Rift will be used to give people a view from the Moon in a new lunar mission to be carried out by scientists at Carnegie Mellon University and space firm Astrobotic.

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Scientists have created a robot that is intended to be sent to the Moon to stand as a virtual pair of eyes for Oculus Rift users. The launch of the robot is planned to take place in 2016 using private space company SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. It will take part in Google’s Lunar XPrize competition, in which the robot must move 500m and transmit video back from the Moon. Google is offering up $30 million USD as a prize.

As the BBC explains, the robot is nicknamed Andy after Andrew Carnegie, the university’s founder. Andy’s camera will move to replicate the Oculus Rift user’s head movements, providing realistic feedback on where they are looking. Issues such as the Oculus Rift being unable to receive two live stream videos at the same time have had to be addressed. In the future scientists hope to have ‘hundreds’ of these robots on the Moon.

18 teams are currently taking part in Lunar XPrize. “With an Oculus headset in every classroom, allowing kids to experience what, to this date, has only been experienced by 12 human beings,” team leader Daniel Shafrir said of the project’s potential.

VRFocus will continue to follow any and all applications of VR, reporting back with any further updates.