The Tandon School of Engineering wants to send its incoming freshmen to Mars. Well, virtually, that is.
Tandon is sending out virtual reality goggles, dubbed Tandon Vision, to each member of the admitted class of 2020 living in the U.S.
Incoming students will use the cardboard goggles in conjunction with a downloadable smartphone app to take a virtual reality trip to Mars with the Tandon-designed, award-winning robotic rover, Lunabot.
Upon putting on the goggles, students are transported to a robotics lab at Tandon where they witness the production of Lunabot. Following a countdown, the student is blasted into space towards Mars, where he or she will be able to control the Lunabot to look for resources that would help astronauts build colonies on the planet.
Mark Skwarek, director of the NYU Mobile Augmented Reality Lab, helped to create this virtual reality experience. Skwarek created a prototype of Tandon Vision with the help of Parth Darji and Shen Fang, graduate students at Tandon.
Skwarek also worked in conjunction with Tandon senior Matthew Conto to create a realistic journey to Mars through a cardboard virtual reality headset.
“The cardboard headset was made to bring the cost down of immersive virtual reality,” Skwarek said. “Cardboard makes VR accessible to anyone with a smartphone.”
Cardboard goggles retail for about $5-10, whereas high-end models can be hundreds of dollars.
Elisabeth Ensweilerl, director of undergraduate enrollment at Tandon, was the one who originally came up with the idea of creating a virtual reality experience for admitted Tandon students.
“The NYU Tandon Vision app was created to encourage admitted students to experience what it’s like to be a School of Engineering student,” Ensweilerl said. “The experience showcases the type of work a Tandon student can do, including creating virtual reality experiences and the robotics used in the Lunabotics program.”
While the virtual reality device is only being sent to the admitted Tandon class of 2020, Ensweilerl said this could change depending on the responses they receive about the app, noting that a successful rollout could prompt them to expand the project beyond Tandon.
NYU Tandon Dean Katepalli R. Sreenivasan said he was thankful that Ensweilerl created an idea that showcased the projects and achievement at Tandon to the admitted class.
“Whether they choose to be at the forefront of virtual reality with Mark Skwarek or explore robotics and other technologies in the computer science classes of Haldun Hadimioglu, students will discover the level of creativity and hands-on experience that will have a huge impact on them,” Sreenivasan said.
Skwarek said the app was made to get students excited about coming to NYU Tandon.
“It was made to encourage them to do great things, like creating works that travel to distant planets,” Skwarek said. “The colonization of Mars is the next great challenge facing humans, and Tandon is leading the way.”
A version of this story appeared in the Monday, April 18 print issue. Email Kate Howard at [email protected]