“Journey to Mars” is accessible via any platform or device, making it easy for anyone to explore the Red Planet

The Washington Post has built a virtual environment taking users to Mars, letting them navigate the landscape using any digital device, with or without VR gear. In partnership with the University of Texas at Austin, The Post uses state-of-the-art technology to create a multi-dimensional, virtual reality scenario that is compatible with a desktop, mobile or tablet web browser or by downloading an app for Windows 10 or Apple OS X and on the Oculus Rift. Learn about how The Post created this feature in the developer blog.

“Today’s launch is our first step in a long journey of democratizing virtual reality. Only a small percentage of our users are likely to have a VR headset, so we ensured that our ‘virtual passport to space’ will work everywhere. For readers who have a headset, the experience is exceptional and those without a headset are able to navigate through the same re-created space, as if they were actually on Mars,” said Jeremy Gilbert, director of strategic initiatives. “Certain stories are best told through an immersive format like VR, especially one that explores the space frontier. We created a true virtual environment where readers may choose where they want to go in a 3D world.”

The Post’s “Journey to Mars” is reported by Christian Davenport, who covers the space and defense industries for The Post, and features the world of a barren landscape in space that is at once forbidding and familiar. During the experience, which features terrain from an actual digital elevated map, users will be able to:

  • Listen to interviews with NASA planetary scientist Jim Green
  • Explore Earth’s distance to Mars and NASA’s new, prototype spacesuit
  • Learn about Space X’s SLS rocket, which is used to ship cargo, and the Dragon Capsule, which is used to ship cargo and people to Mars
  • Walk around and inspect the Curiosity rover
  • Navigate using a game controller, keyboard arrow keys or by tilting and rotating with their mobile phones

Users who want to take advantage of the most interactive experience can download a Post application built exclusively for a VR headset. The Post also created downloadable applications for Windows and OS X that do not require extra hardware. And the web-based version allows anyone to explore the virtual world on a variety of web browsers.

The Post’s engineering team is also developing ways to integrate the VR platform into its publishing system Arc, allowing the newsroom to easily replicate virtual reality to other stories, whether at The Post or Arc clients.

The Washington Post’s “Journey to Mars” is sponsored by Amazon Web Services.