More than likely the very first humans to step foot on Martian soil will be those who are currently in our schooling system. With estimates of a manned mission to the red planet ranging from sometime between 2025 to 2040, we are getting incredibly close to such a historic event for the science community. With that said, thanks to virtual reality, Lockheed Martin, McCann and Framestore and the STEM program, “Generation Beyond“, one group of students were able to experience Mars first-hand from the interior of a school bus.
Lockheed Martin literally turned a moving school bus into a giant virtual reality theater, and students at the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C., earlier this week, were taken for the ride of their lives. The students, who initially thought that they were in store for an ordinary ride on the bus, became hysterical when the screens on the windows of the bus suddenly turned on and they found themselves driving on the surface of Mars. In what is being described as ‘the world’s first shared VR experience,’ the LCD screens depicted 200 square miles of footage from the surface of the red planet, which was mapped by Framestore, the company responsible for special effects in the film ‘The Martian’. As the bus made turns here on our planet, the system adapted and the screens on the windows of the bus depicted a turn within the Martian VR environment. As the bus slowed down, sped up, or came to a stop, the same movement was depicted within the virtual environment as well.
“Our children—the elementary, middle and high school students of today—make up a generation that will change our universe forever. This is the generation that will walk on Mars, explore deep space and unlock mysteries that we can’t yet imagine,” said Marillyn Hewson, Lockheed Martin chairman, president and CEO. “They won’t get there alone. It is our job to prepare, inspire and equip them to build the future—and that’s exactly what Generation Beyond is designed to do.”
As you can see from the video below, the students, who were from Girls Inc. and 4H, were thoroughly impressed at the realism depicted by the VR experience they were involved in. While such a setup surely was not cheap, and we likely won’t be seeing anything like this coming to our own children’s school buses any time soon, what this does do is show us how virtual reality can be used as a tremendous learning tool for the astronauts, doctors, lawyers, and office clerks of tomorrow. Let’s hear your thoughts on Lockheed Martin’s VR experience in the VR Mars School Bus forum on VRTalk.com.