National Geographic Channel unveiled “Experience Mars”, a first-of-its-kind immersive activation, for “recruits” to experience Mars with TAIT’s cable coaster virtual reality simulator.

Between October 26th and 29th, the corner of Canal and Varick streets in New York City were bustling with space enthusiasts, virtual reality bloggers, media influencers and experience seekers vying for a spot to land on Mars. Once inside the “Mars Experience” recruits climbed aboard the cable coaster virtual reality simulator and traversed the landscape of Mars prior to officially touching down.

“The cable coaster is a 6 degree of freedom rig which means it creates incredibly dynamic movement well beyond a traditional 3 Degree rig. The Traditional 3 D rigs have 3 axes of motion: Up/Down, Left/Right, Backwards/Forwards. With our 6 Degree of Freedom rig, we take the same axes of motion from a 3D rig but we add an additional 3; Roll, Pitch, Yaw. With 6 independent axes of motion our rig has the same motion characteristics of an airplane or a helicopter.” shared Ben Gasper, TAIT’s Project Manager, who worked closely on this project over the past 5 weeks. “Once we strapped the recruits in, they put their VR headsets on, which were accompanied by audio, and they were completely immersed in the world we provided. We were able to give not just the sense of flying: but also gravity, acceleration and reverse thrust. It was more than just ‘flying’ to Mars, it was the full Mars Experience.”

The cable coaster itself is a TAIT product that has been used in different capacities; however, as noted by Jim Shumway and Alex Serrano, TAIT’s Technical Leads, the 6 degree of freedom rig (cable coaster) had never been combined with an immersive VR experience. TAIT, who was contacted by Production Glue to assist in National Geographic’s immersive installation, has spent the past few years assimilating VR into their innovation process for internal and external purposes. VR has been incredibly useful for their media team to create experiences to scale. Likewise, for their expansive A-List clientele, TAIT has designed projects and migrated them to VR for the client to experience what their customer or consumer will experience prior to the project being constructed.

The same process was implemented for the “Mars Experience.” With the integration of the cable coaster, VR and content creation, TAIT continued to test and make incremental improvements based on feedback. The end result amounted to four days of over 1200 recruits, from all over the world, experiencing the ride to Mars.

As Nadia Drake, contributing writer for National Geographic shared, “[the] experience [will give you] a bit of what life on the Martian surface could be like—starting with that all-important landing, which is simulated using a cable-suspended, two-seater robot and virtual reality (VR) headset. It was glorious—and way too short . . .”

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