Lander landing on Mars

Hello Mars AR – App Review (iOS)

Yesterday I’ve downloaded UCCVR’s app called Hello Mars AR. This app was designed to educate people about what it will be like the journey for the first humans on Mars.

Hello Mars AR has several experiences. The first one called “Experience”, showing how a landing on Mars for humans will be like. The second is “Landing Lab”, an AR game where the player needs to land a lander on the surface. “Mars Rover” is an AR experience where you get to meet Curiosity rover in augmented reality and even see how it looks like in real-size.

The Mars landing “Experience” was done really well. The experience shows the landing from different perspectives, both from within the lander and from outside. It was really easy to get emotional and excited just watching that experience. It makes you wonder how amazing that moment of the first person landing on Mars would be like. you can control the view by moving your device 360 degrees in all directions.

Landing on Mars simulation
Touch down! landing on Mars using Hello Mars iOS app.

After feeling the excitement of the Mars Landing simulation, I went into the more exciting aspect of the app, the AR experiences.

As I mentioned, there are two augmented reality experiences. The first one is Mars Rover.

Mars Rover spawns Curiosity rover in the real world, right in front of you in augmented reality. Users can move around it and inspect its parts, as well as use the controls to move it around the surface.

Curiosity Rover in augmented reality
Curiosity Rover in augmented reality. A higher resolution 3D model of the rover.

You can control it using the slider at the bottom of the page. I personally put it at 1:1 scale, because I wanted to see Curiosity’s real size in real life. It was definitely larger than I thought it would be.

Playing around with Curiosity has created some funny moments.

After finishing driving Curiosity around, I went to try out the second experience called “Landing Lab”.

Landing Lab is an augmented reality mini-game and the favorite experiences of the three.

I am surprised how now one has thought about making a similar AR game like this, it was actually really fun. In this game, you control a lander aircraft. You need to use the booster and move controls thee control it as it descends towards the surface. You have a limited amount of fuel, so you need to use the boosters wisely.

After landing successfully, you can see your total points based on how well you were able to land the lander based on sliding distance, stabilization duration, remaining fuel and perfecting landing combos. The score screen also shows you the distance to centerline and max touchdown velocity. At the right side, you can see your top high scores. My personal best is 18,678 as you can see in the video below.

Check out both the Rover and Lander AR experiences in this video.

Please accept marketing-cookies to watch this video.

I love using educational apps, and I think that this idea of implementing mini-games in apps can actually be a good feature to add to Jigspace app.

AR apps definitely gave me more motivation to stay around and learn new things, which I otherwise probably wouldn’t have the patience for.

I wish someone would make that type of physics-based lander app as a separate AR game with many different types of landers, obstacles and different controls. I know I would love to play an AR game like that.

Just so you know, you can play those experience in default non-AR mode. I actually recommend trying them both because they play and feel very different from each other.

For example, the Rover experience in default mode lets you travel on the surface on Mars and in the Landing Lab looks completely different and plays differently than the AR mode. You can even control the angle of view by rotating the device in 360-degrees.

What was really missing for me is an option to understand the different parts of the rover itself. I have no idea why this feature wasn’t included, it’s an educational app after all.

Conclusion

Overall, Hello Mars AR was definitely an interesting and enlightening educational app. The AR experiences were fun, especially the Landing Lab one. That being said, I was disappointed not being able to learn more about the rover from within the AR app. It was actually a great opportunity to do so.

I also went to visit uccvr.com website. Apparently, they used more than 6000 copies of NASA academic data, landing blocks or more than 15,600 model parts, Mars surface composed of hundreds of millions polygons, 4K host level texture to help create this great experience.

Hello Mars AR isn’t a free app but it’s definitely worth the $2.99 I paid for it.