planetarium

Leap Motion’s Planetarium – Best Online Tool for Studying Constellations

Leap Motion’s Planetarium seems to be one of the most appreciated tools that aim to illustrate how virtual reality user interfaces can be used for individual study and entertainment, alike. For anyone that has a passion or curiosity in either VR or Astronomy, the Planetarium is more than just a wonderful surprise to discover online.

‘I ran across the Planetarium as I was getting ready to start the first module of an online course that was studying the Orion constellation. One of the teacher’s recommendations included downloading the application and using it to start determining the position of the constellation in the night sky’ says Caroline, one of the many students that use Futurelearn as an individual study platform, where you can choose to attend online some of the most interesting MC’s of the year.

planetarium

Planetarium is just such a practical and inspiring application that uses the Leap Motion controller in order to allow the user to manipulate the stars. After launching the beta of it’s ‘V2′ tracking API, with more accurate sensing of finger and arm movements, they finally got the answer for a more reliable form of gesture based input.

How The Planetarium Idea Began

“I was really curious about seeing how the night sky would look if you could actually sense the difference in distances.” Plemmons , engineer at Leap Motion explains. “Stars are so far away that the difference in parallax is so small as to be meaningless to the human eye. But if our eyes were a few light-years apart, we’d have a really good sense for the varying distance of stars.”

The project is mostly a personal, spare time project of Plemmons. It brought the challenge of how to better represent the stars in our galaxy. “I did some digging and found the HYG star database, a very cleanly formatted CSV database of the brightest stars in the sky (there are billions of stars, we’re rendering just over 100,000).”. The 3D data was used in order to map the stars out into Unity 3D space, obtaining a rendered, accurate picture of the heavens.

The Planetarium, available right now for download here, reveals some interesting examples of the team’s widgets with controls operated within individually tracked digits, mapped in 3D space and locked to your own hands’ actions. It is definitely a wonderful way to emphasize VR’s versatility, as the Planetarium allows you not only to sense the vastness of space, but manipulate it as you wish.

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