NASA remotely controls Athlete rover with Leap Motion: 'let's bring a billion human beings into a holodeck'

In an unexpected demonstration at the 2013 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, scientists from NASA used the Leap Motion to control a six-legged, one-ton Athlete rover located at the space agency's Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California. Using his hands in front of a Vaio laptop on stage, Luo raised one of the Athlete's legs as the crowd at the Moscone Center watched along via a live Google+ Hangout. And while this demonstration was impressive in its own right, NASA's ambitions reach much further than the 383 miles to Pasadena.
Before articulating the Athlete's limbs over the internet, NASA walked through its work to reach new audiences with gaming, detailing its recent efforts in games like Mars Rover Landing on the Xbox 360, Moonbase Alpha, and other games that allow players to control and maneuver NASA robots. The games are all part of the agency's efforts to reach the public by returning to the living rooms of people around the world; "In the 1960s, the landing of Apollo 11 was the most watched television broadcast at the time in history," said NASA manager Jeff Norris. "It happened here. It happened in this hallowed ground of the living room, a place we'd like to be again." But what began with Kinect-infused demonstrations of NASA games ended in an inspiring, audacious vision for the future of human space exploration.
In a moving speech capping the Leap Motion demonstration, Norris envisioned a future in which human beings, using simple interfaces (like the Leap Motion or Kinect), are able to remotely explore the universe with robotic astronauts and rovers. "We all desperately want Star Trek," said Norris. "I do believe that humanity's destiny is to climb aboard starships and explore the universe. I think at last we finally have in our grasp the technology necessary to build a very important room on this vessel."

By T.C. Sottek
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