Oculus Rift-controlled robot lets users see the Moon as if they were actually there

US scientists have developed a robot that will allow Oculus Rift owners to see the surface of the Moon as if they were really there.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed the project to compete for the Google Lunar XPrize, which is offering $30 million to a team that can send video back from the Moon.

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Carnegie Mellon has collaborated with Astrobotic Technology, an off-shoot of the university, to secure a deal with SpaceX, Elon Musk's private space company, to launch the robot in 2016 using its Falcon 9 rocket.

Daniel Shafrir, the project's team leader, said that their idea was based on a simple premise.

"We weren't just going to go to the Moon. We are going to bring the Moon back," he said.

The telepresence robot, which has been named Andy after university founder Andrew Carnegie, is controlled via an Oculus Rift headset, with the movements of the operator's head being tracked and sent to Andy's camera to mimic the user.

"Imagine the feeling of looking out and seeing rocks and craters billions of years old. Turn your head to the right and you see the dark expanse of space. Turn your head to the left and you see home, Earth," Mr Shafrir told the BBC.

The team leader added that the project became a "day and night hackathon," as scientist tackled coding challenges and the fact that the Oculus software can only receive one live video stream at a time.

There's no guarantee that the Oculus-driven robot will secure Google's prize, with 18 other teams competing, but that hasn't dulled the ambition of the Carnegie Mellon project.

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Mr Shafrir said the goal is to ultimately have "hundreds of robots on the Moon."

"With an Oculus headset in every classroom, allowing kids to experience what, to this date, has only been experienced by 12 human beings."