Augmented-reality apps provide views of a real-world environment where the experience is improved with user input. With Spacecraft 3D, the user prints an augmented reality target on a piece of paper. Then, with the device's camera pointed at the target, the chosen spacecraft "materializes" on the screen, according to NASA. The app also lets users take an augmented-reality picture of the Curiosity or the GRAIL spacecraft.
"Like Hollywood directors sizing up their next shot, you move your camera-equipped iPad or iPhone in and out, up and down and the spacecraft perspective moves with you," said Kevin Hussey, manager of visualization technology at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
While Spacecraft 3D is currently only available in Apple iOS formats, the space agency plans to release other versions. NASA also says it will incorporate other spacecraft into the app, including the Cassini, which is orbiting Saturn; Dawn, now in the asteroid belt; and the Voyagers, launched in 1977 and now at the edge of our solar system.
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