Sunday, October 28, 2018

What to do on a cloudy night? Or Star Chart VR!

Deprivation after just a handful of cloudy observing nights leads to... ideas. I have borrowed my Son's Gear VR headset and found a pleasant virtual world of astronomical wonders immediately surrounded me almost naturally.

StarChart is a simplistic amusement app, but the digital implementation of the starry night ambience is truly artistic. It even has its own darkness-adaptation-safe campfire! Wonderful touch. No images spoiling under the cut as the immersion is the key.

There are plenty of tech reviews of the app if you just google. My take on that is to share my experience using it to simulate the real thing (or conceptually: the starry sky vs star chart).

Joy factor even more striking than Stellarium 0.0.* many years ago on the 60" plasma screen. It's a professional cartoonist arranged and animated 3D scene with the depth felt vivid from the near reach to the galaxies' distance. It's a computer gaming company, so they know how to make you feel comfy and at home. In fact, the campsite in the open meadow is your home for the night as soon as you don the HMD. Night sounds are included. The wow effect is guaranteed every time, just wipe the lenses and the screen as often.


...can be ignored. As even without any hand control you still have your head in motion naturally. Just relax. Breathe... The minimalistic UI supporting that is outstanding. The marker depicts you glance direction by a small flying disk, triggering attention targets to come afloat in front of the targeted objects of the scene. There are many shining above and below to pay attention! As if you are possessing wizardry powers of every star name and amusing details knowledge just by looking at it. The sky is moving and flashing by meteors; no "blinding" lights, including from the Moon and Sun, and you can see through the bottom of the Earthy disk. It's magic.

Adding the magic-laser-light-saber-wand adds some more fun if you are in a hyperactive mood. Now you can control the entire Universe above and below starting from rotating the planet all the way to beam-shrink galaxies by picking in the sky so at the saber's handle, they look like a sparsely dark matter infused ice cream (not 3d shaped, but promised just not yet).


...must be strictly recreational. E.g. you are out with the MAK but forgot the mount at home 8 hours away and drowned your last pair of binoculars in that river below (such a harsh and unjust virtual world for you, yes).

For a practical use, there are noticeable errors (don't remember what exactly as I don't bother to complain); the general textures resolution is economical so don't expect Hubble details, there is Internet for that; the completeness of the object's data participating in the simulation is randomly spotty which is a bit annoying feeling of diminishing magic powers; overall the product looks more like a pilot as there are many interesting ideas but they need plenty of brushing from a specialist (astronomer).

The web site promises more systematic educational value in the nearest future though. The sky is not the limit! That's a pun. I.e. imagine a 3DVR social network with virtual star parties, where laser pointers are not banned, full of colorful avatars held on Pluto at 0.00 Pluto longitude and 0.00 Pluto latitude...


Highly recommended as a decent substitution for the real black LPZ audio-visual experience when the real thing is temporarily out of reach, just don't plan on any AP, there is birding for that ;)


  1. Get to the open air, it's 4D now.
  2. 5D is also easy: get into the camp chair :)
  3. Good earpieces are mandatory (almost as eyepieces in the real world), not so much for the audio content as to at least muffle external world's noises.
  4. There is a third magic control system: temple touchpad (gamers may add a game controller they are used to).
  5. It's multiplatform, you can try it with other VR system, though I can't tell for any other version qualities.
  6. Don't get addicted. The real thing is still better. Emergency use only!

No comments:

Post a Comment