Holographic capture startup 8i and Time Inc. are set to show off 8i’s new virtual-reality experience “Buzz Aldrin: Cycling Pathways to Mars” Tuesday at SXSW in Austin, Texas. The experience features a life-size hologram of Aldrin himself, laying out plans for humans to take a trip to Mars within the next 20 years.
Aldrin has long had his own thoughts on how to get to Mars — only, it’s not a straight shot. The engineer and former astronaut has for some years now been advocating for a multiple-step approach that would include pit stops on the Moon, as well as a spaceship that would continuously cycle back and forth between Earth and Mars.
It’s an idea that’s a bit hard to explain, which is why Aldrin was so excited when 8i approached him to film a life-size hologram last August. The cooperation was initially just about a short snippet for a separate project, but Aldrin insisted on the 8i team his Mars expedition plans as well.
The company ended up turning it into a complete VR experience that not only includes a life-sized hologram of Aldrin himself, but also a way for viewers to step onto the surface of Mars with him, take a close peek at a solar-powered spacecraft, and see models of the planets circle around them.
8i developed the VR experience in cooperation with Soylent, with some help from Loot and FuseFX. After premiering at SXSW, the experience is going to get published as part of Time Inc.’s Time and Life VR for the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift VR headsets. In addition, there will be a mobile video version for mobile headsets and phones.
8i, which is specializing in holographic capture, recently raised a new $27 million round of funding from Time Warner Investments, Baidu Ventures, Hearst Ventures, Verizon and others. In addition to VR projects like the Buzz Aldrin experience, 8i has also been working on augmented reality, and recently previewed an app promises to combine cell phone videos with holograms from pop stars and YouTubers.