Versions is the essential guide to virtual reality and beyond. It investigates the rapidly deteriorating boundary between the real world and the one behind the screen. Versions launched in 2016 at the eponymous conference dedicated to creativity and VR with the New Museum’s incubator NEW INC.

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NASA comes to VR … and it’s sensibly boring

NASA comes to VR … and it’s sensibly boring

NASA is very serious and not at all in the content business that this here corner of the Internet traffics in. But who are we kidding? Everyone’s in the content business nowadays, even government agencies that put multiple men on the moon.

Here, then is a story about NASA making some literally immersive content:

The organization teamed up with VR video company Harmonic to release a new 360 degree experience, seen below. It shows astronauts training for space walks at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) in Houston, Texas. You may well have seen this incredible pool, the largest of its kind, in documentaries before but this is our first look at it in 360.

The short clip heads underwater to show you how astronauts train for upcoming missions to the International Space Station (ISS), which itself is no stranger to VR users. Bulky suits are dragged around by divers across a full replica of the station, with the conditions in the pool as resembling those in space as closely as is possible on Earth. It may be shot in an expensive facility, though it still feels suitably cold and isolated.

This is not exactly high-end VR filmmaking we’re talking about here, but it is 360-degree video of people practicing for spacewalks, which is intrinsically exciting. That, I suppose, is another way of saying that the whole thing has a NASA aesthetic. It’s exciting insofar as space exploration is always exciting, but not overtly sexy.

When Elon Musk’s SpaceX can say or do basically whatever it wants, that aesthetic reality takes on a different meaning. NASA has to be the grown-up organization: its rockets can’t explode with competitors’ frequency and said explosions can’t be blamed on snipers and talk of nonsensical missions to Mars must be kept to a reasonable minimum. This latest 360-degree video, in other words, is NASA’s adulthood in visual form. That’s not such a bad thing.

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