Saturday, March 2, 2024

DOST’s new mobile app seeks to bring space closer to Filipinos

In a bid to spark the interest of Filipinos in the country’s space programs, the Department of Science and Technology – Advanced Science and Technology Research Institute (DOST-ASTI) launched the ASTI Virtual Reality Simulation (ASTI VRS) mobile app last Wednesday, August 25.

“All of our achievements in the field of research and development have to be useful to our society and contribute to economic development and making the lives of Filipinos better,” declared DOST undersecretary for research and development Rowena Cristina Guevara.

“This is what we’re aiming for today as we launch the DOST-ASTI Virtual Reality Simulation App or VRS. This app aims to bring us, especially the younger people, closer to science. Through this application the public can download to their mobile devices, we’re giving everyone a chance to explore our space assets virtually, anywhere in the world.”

Currently available for free on the Google Play Store, the Android app allows its users to tour the space assets and infrastructure managed by the Philippine Earth Data Resource and Observation (PEDRO) Center that operates under the DOST.

Users can explore the country’s two existing Ground Receiving Stations (GRS) in Quezon City and Davao City, as well as get a sneak peak of the upcoming GRS in Iloilo City.

But the GRS are only one part of the operation. The stations are used to transmit commands for image capture and receive images from satellites in space.

The app also proudly displays the Filipino-made Diwata and Maya satellites and the commercial satellites PEDRO is subscribed to. Through interactive and informative placards, the app’s satellite showcase teaches its users about the Mission Planning stage of the PEDRO Center’s operations where PEDRO teams transmit, receive and process data from these satellites.

If users are lucky, they may even find hidden features in the app that will trigger delighting special effects. The app is currently available as a mobile application without VR capabilities.

As suggested by its name, the ASTI VRS app was conceptualized before the pandemic to be used in tandem with a VR headset. It was originally intended to let the DOST-ASTI tour individuals around their facilities remotely through VR during physical fairs and events.

With social distancing protocols in place, DOST-ASTI’s developers changed gears and chose to focus their efforts on platforms that are widely available to Filipinos.

However, the app is far from finished. Other than pushing for an iOS version, the app’s developers Mark Gerald Sy, Marck Camama, and Nash Frederic Prado mentioned during the launch that future updates included mini games, more realistic textures and graphics, and the development of a VR mode.

“The curiosity is there,” DOST-ASTI director Franz Asunta de Leon said about the Filipinos interest in space during the launch. “This project has a lot of potential to inform and even inspire the younger generation. So we hope na maraming Filipino ang makakalam about this virtual app.”

The ASTI VRS Application was made through Unity, a game development platform by Unity Technologies and its 3D models were made through Sketchup as well as an open-source software for 3D modeling, Blender.

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