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NASA Challenges Video Game Developers to Create Mars VR Training

There’s a prize money to be won and over 220 teams of developers worldwide will compete

As technology continues to emerge and expand through the video game industry, virtual reality games will undoubtedly play a major role or culture in the years to follow. And as virtual reality increases in quality, it will no doubt make its way into other industries other than gaming. 

It didn’t take long for NASA to recognize the potential in the technology and it has partnered with Epic Games, creators of the acclaimed battle royale game Fortnite to issue a “challenge” for game developers. 

NASA is challenging video game developers to create virtual reality assets using Unreal Engine 5 based on Mars. However, these game developers won’t be starting from scratch as the MarsXR environment already contains a vast “world” that spans hundreds of miles squared. It features day/night cycles, gravity, spacesuits, vehicles, realistic martian weather and several other assets. Developers can decide to use the already supplied assets or chip in their own and create their Mars experiences. 

Seb Loze, Unreal Engine business director for simulation at Epic Games commented, “Creators can use Unreal Engine to build realistic simulation scenarios to help prepare NASA for future missions, whether that’s to the moon or to Mars. Whether you’re a game designer, architect, hobbyist or rocket scientist, anyone can build with UE5, and we can’t wait to see the immersive simulations the community comes up with.” 

NASA is specifically looking for realistic scenarios in the following five categories: ‘Set Up Camp,’ ‘Scientific Research,’ ‘Maintenance,’ ‘Exploration,’ and ‘Blow Our Minds’. As you might’ve probably guessed, there are prizes to be won, infact there’s twenty in total. Four prizes will be awarded for each category, with a total prize pool of $70,000. 

Furthermore, the winner of each category will be given $6,000. Each participant will have max 80 days to submit their work. The competition has acquired a staggering amount of attention so far and has garnered more than 220 teams of developers from various locations across the globe from Iran, Ukraine, South Korea, Kenya, Taiwan and many more. 

Solutions will focus on particular extravehicular activities (EVA) scenarios that will be used to test procedures and plan for conditions while on Mars. The goal is to create an immersive, engaging, and realistic experience.

Considering NASA’s massive budget, it could easily dedicate a tiny amount of its resources to create specific VR environments. Allowing the public to create their very own experiences however, could yield a diffrent kind of value that NASA researchers might not have considered. 

The closing date to apply is July 26th

Written By

Isa Muhammad is a writer and video game journalist covering many aspects of entertainment media including the film industry. He's steadily writing his way to the sharp end of journalism and enjoys staying informed. If he's not reading, playing video games or catching up on his favourite TV series, then he's probably writing about them.

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