Travel through space with the Project Tango app, Solar Simulator

Posted by Jason Guo, Developer Programs Engineer, Project Tango

Since most of us haven’t been to space, it’s often hard to grasp concepts like the vastness of the Solar System or the size of the planets. To make these concepts more tangible, three graduate students at San Francisco State University (SFSU)--Jason Burmark, Moses Lee and Omar Shaikh--have created Solar Simulator, a new app for Project Tango. The app lets people take a virtual walk through space to understand the size and scale of our solar system.

Created with the Unity SDK, the application lays out our solar system’s planets in their relative distances from each other and draws 3D models of them in their relative sizes. The app leverages Project Tango’s motion-tracking API to track your movements as you walk, so you can better understand the planets and their distance in space.

If you like what you see, you can create your own solar system at home. Just follow the six steps below:

  1. Download the Tango Unity SDK.
  2. Create a new Unity project and import the Tango SDK package into the project. If you don’t already have the Tango SDK, you can download it here.
  3. Assuming that you are building a solar simulation, place a sphere at (0, 0, 2) to simulate a planet floating in space. The screen will look like this:
  4. Next, replace the Main Camera with the Tango AR Camera and connect the Tango Manager through the prefabs. To do this, first remove the Main Camera gameobject from the scene. Then drag in the Tango AR Camera and Tango Manager from the TangoPrefabs folder under Project. The scene hierarchy will look like this:
  5. On Tango Manage gameobject, there are several Tango startup configurations such as knobs to configure how Tango will run in the application session, i.e, turning on/off depth, or motion tracking. In this case, check the boxes to turn Auto-connect to service, Enable motion tracking (with Auto Reset), and Enable video overlay (with TextureID method).
  6. To get your code ready for AR on a Tango-enabled device, build and run the project. To do this, follow the “Change the Build Settings” and “Build and run” sections in this tutorial.

Here is what the final scene should look like from the device:

If you want a guided tour of the planets with Solar Simulator, developers Jason, Moses, and Omar will be demoing their app at San Francisco’s California Academy of Sciences’ NightLife tonight at 6:30PM PT. You can also download Solar Simulator on your Project Tango Development Kit.