Augmented reality smartphone apps relive the Moon landing, half a century later
This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, and with augmented reality you can relive the momentous occasion through your smartphone.
Like other augmented reality (AR) applications, these apps use the rear camera of your smartphone to bring the Apollo 11 lunar module, Neil Armstrong, and the surface of the moon into your living room.
The AR app lets you watch the Moon landing for a variety of viewpointsGearBrain
First up is Time magazine, which has partnered with the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum to create a free smartphone app, called Landing on the moon that claims to be the most accurate AR experience ever made.
Once quickly calibrated (open the app and point your phone's camera at a flat surface, like the floor), the app shows the landing of the Apollo 11 lunar module from three different points of view. The craft follows the exact path it took 50 years ago, while the app plays audio recordings from the radio conversations between Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, and NASA ground control.
This is Chapter 1 of the app. In Chapter 2, you can explore the lunar surface, walk up to the lunar module, and stand next to Armstrong as he plants the American flag.
While visually impressive and easy to use, the main emphasis here is on realism. Time worked with John Knoll, COO of Industrial Light and Magic, the video effects and animation studio of Lucasfilm, to perfectly replicate how the landing took place on July 20, 1969.
Time claims Knoll put "years of painstaking research" into reliving on the moon landing.
"Knoll recreated the flight path of the lunar module using digitized telemetry graphs provided by NASA, while he calculated the position and orientation of the camera by analyzing lunar landmarks," wrote Time.
The landscape of the moon seen in the app came from data collected by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, a probe launched by NASA in 2009. Smaller features of the surface were developed using photographs and computer vision techniques.
AR app lets you launch a virtual Saturn V from anywhereSN Digital LLC
Next up is Apollo's Moon Shot AR, which is free and available for iOS and Android. This app also uses your phone's rear camera, pointed at a mostly flat surface, to recreate key stages of the Apollo 11 mission and moon landing. The app is a spin-off a six-part televised series produced by the Smithsonian Channel.
Users of the app can watch the launch of the Saturn V rocket, fly to the moon, take a selfie in a virtual Apollo 11 spacesuit, then pilot and land the lunar module, and explore the lunar surface. Extra details include handwritten notes left in the lunar module by Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins, and video clips from the six-part TV series. There's also a quiz for testing your Apollo 11 knowledge.
Finally, if you search "Apollo 11" on Google while using an AR-compatible smartphone, the search results include a 3D model of the lunar module, which you can tap on and explore in augmented reality.
And remember, if you head to https://www.google.co.uk/moon/ you can explore the six Apollo landing sites on the moon using a Google Maps-style interface.