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article imageVideo: 'The Solar System: Explore your Backyard'

By JohnThomas Didymus     Apr 19, 2012 in Technology
A new digital app that gives an "unparalleled view of the universe" has been developed. The app "The Solar System: Explore your Backyard," was developed by an unemployed video game designer Christopher Albeluhn.
A six-minute YouTube video was posted by Albeluhn's roommate to demonstrate the device. According to Daily Mail, the device is for both educational and entertainment ("edutainment") purposes and allows people to explore details of the solar system using a device that can be held in the palm of the hand. The device holds information about the eight planets in our solar system and all the countries of the Earth in 3D.
With Albeluhn's device, you literally have the solar system in your palm. It began as a "portfolio-expanding project" for the unemployed British Columbia-based video game designer. According to Huffington Post, his original goal was to "create planet Earth in a video game engine," but the simulation began taking "astronomical proportions" as he added more details and expanded its scope.
He soon extended the program to include information about 88 standard constellations. Albeluhn, writing on his project's website, said: "Every night I began making it bigger, better, and more of what I wanted to see in a space program." The program shows the "correct rotations, orbits, locations and speeds" for the solar system's planets and the Sun based on accurate scientific data.
"The Solar System: Explore your Backyard," was built using the technology platform Unreal Engine used for developing cutting-edge 3D for first-person shooters and role-playing games. The app is now being currently developed for the PC, Huffington Post reports.
Albeluhn told Venture Beat that he is hoping to release the simulation on the platform he developed it on. But he says that if he is able to reach his fundraising target of $8,000, he would consider a port for Android and hand-held iOS devices such as iPad and iPhone.
Albeluhn, on the app's homepage, wrote: "The Solar System is a simulation/educational program designed to help make the experience of learning more enjoyable. Even if facts aren't your interest, it's a great way to explore the universe around us. It has been designed from the ground up with the distinct intent to make exploring and learning about the solar system fun, entertaining, informative and very natural."
The Huffington Post describes it is an "interactive, hands-on way for students to learn about the solar system," and "has the makings of a great teaching tool."
The app already has rivals. Among them are Brian Cox's "Wonders of the Universe" and the NASA/Jet Propulsion Lab produced "Eyes on the Solar System", a web app that tracks movement of asteroids and "historic" man-made satellites in the solar system. Huffington Post reports Brian Cox's "Wonders of the Universe" application has been criticized by users for lack of depth.
According to Venture Beat, Albeluhn is planning to include dwarf planets, a viewing library and develop more detailed models. He said: "There is always the possibility to add in Pluto later on, however since it was downgraded to a dwarf planet, I would need to add in every dwarf planet in the solar system...Details can be added in for future builds or upgrades, however for now I'm sad to say that it looks as if Pluto will be left out."
Albeluhn commented on his motivation: "Growing up I had always wished I could explore space my way, and this project has turned into exactly that. There are many space related applications out there, but most are bland and unable to draw in new users. This project aims to change that."
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