Mars Is a Real Place – Review


By VRift720




      Mars Is A Real Place couldn’t have been given any better name.  That’s because the reality of Mars becomes clear to you once you’ve donned your visor on this stereoscopic slideshow app.  It is gritty and intense and your jaw will hit the floor just feeling the reality that is Mars.  It very much is a real place.  It has so much depth, too.  Mars has deep craters and high mountains and other … strange formations.  It’s not only real, but a place of contrasts, a bizarre place.  I never knew it had pits and craters that were miles deep.  Some crater holes are over three miles deep and you can see all the way to the bottom!  It’s creepy and awesome, mostly because this app is set to some wonderful space music similar to what the show Cosmos (with Carl Sagan) used to do.  You can tell the developer cares about science and space exploration.  This app will make you care about it, too.  You really feel a sense of awe.  I was skeptical about this purchase because of the black and white imagery, but at least he was fair in his marketing and didn’t advertise some B&W app as “all color” either.  Such honesty should be rewarded. 

      I will explain my change of heart, too.  A few days ago while in vTime chatting with a group, one guy told us he felt Mars Is a Real Place was very cool.  He told us the intro has this really amazing view of Mars floating in space with stars all around it.  After that I had to give a try, and I’m grateful I did.


      The stereoscopic-depth effects are deep and fulfilling.  The highs are high and the lows are low.  Things pop out more than in other 3D photos I’ve seen before.  The wonder of Mars comes alive and you feel a brief taste of what an astronaut must feel seeing a real place that is so far away and so alien, but seeing it UP CLOSE.  I really want to thank Drash for creating this library of shocking imagery for us … all in one place for VR. 



     Mars Is a Real Place is a grand stereoscopic slideshow, but the image library is not self contained in the app.  The images are pulled out of a secure Cloud account.  For that reason, the app continues to grow as the app designer, DrashVR, adds new content into the Cloud at any time based on user interest.  He doesn’t have to update the app to get the new content in and the app’s library grows without needing software updates.  This is the first app I’ve seen to use such a strategy, and it is much appreciated.  There are too many app updates happening all the time as it is, let’s figure out new ways to keep from making every app need a dozen updates a year.  Times 200 apps, that would be 2400 updates for GearVR alone, not to mention all your regular phone apps too.  In fact, the app goes one step further and monitors its users interests, the time spent on each photo, the number of times you’ve opened the app, and what items you’ve “favorited” in order to assess how best to update the database in the future.  For example, Drash’s own website explains:

“More than 50 high-resolution stereoscopic 3D images have been carefully hand-picked and presented for your viewing pleasure. Most of the slideshow is set to music, and comes with supporting information for those that want to delve a little deeper into each landscape.”

      However, at the time of this article, there are now over 66 high-res photos to explore!  Sixteen more than there was at inception.  That’s due to its Cloud-hosted database being updated based on user-usage models.  I think it’s really cool that you can buy an app and then see it library continue to grow without needing app updates.  Plus, this keeps interest in the title going long after it’s been released, with 1-2 new stereo-depth photos appearing monthly.


      One mysterious curiosity worth noting!:  In image #21 there is a deep pit.   If you close your right eye, with your left open, you can see a face in the bottom of that pit.  I don’t mean a human face, I mean the terrain coloration forms a face image looking out at you.  I see it clearly, do you?  It’s a little creepy once you see it.  Maybe if such things scare you, you should skip image #21, haha.  Then image #23 soon after that has some of the best highs and lows of any one image in the collection.  Image #33 has this wonderfully huge crater (photo below).  Those are some of my favorites in the collection.  Check them out!  Also, be sure to first turn on the information display panel and then turn around so you can see Mars in full color behind you.



      The guy in vTime who recommended this app to us didn’t lie, either.  The opening animation is pretty cool, the depth of the stereoscopy is amazing to behold.  Later, toward the end, the music ramps up as you begin seeing the last few photos.  These take you to ground level instead of looking down into the craters from above.  That last 5 photos are stitched together as 180-degree photos.  And the final photo, image #66, is a 360-image in full color!  You can see Mars in color, in stereo, on the ground.  Its amazing.  What got me about the last 6 photos was that they were in stereo, not 2D, as one would expect from an old rover.  The quality wasn’t the best because the right eye doesn’t stitch together as well as the left does.  It seems the left eye stitches perfectly but the right eye looks more like overlapping panels with seams.  I wonder what’s going on there to cause this?  Is the stereo being faked here, by using some clever method of some kind?  If so, I don’t really mind, because the effect is so cool.  I mean, I’m looking at the actual surface of Mars in full stereo!  I didn’t think we had the technology out in space yet to do that.  But it feels like I’m right there!  I couldn’t be any happier for the time being, understanding the limitations of current technology.



      I know that technology will continue to improve, and I’d definitely like to revisit this app once our phones are at the 8K level.  I hope Drash will re-submit the existing photos at an even higher resolution so we can enjoy the grit and immersive details found on Mars at the new detail levels offered at that time.  The image quality of GearVR might be miles away from what is needed to really put you there (so you believe it), but this app has managed to shrink those miles down to NOTHING by putting you there … today.   Mars Is a Real Place (the app) erases the epic lengths between Earth and that amazing little red planet we’ve been so curious about since … well, forever!

      If you have even a passing interest in stereoscopy, Mars, Mars Rovers, synth music, or the real-life historic imagery of space exploration, then don’t wait to try this app out today.  You’ll be glad you did.


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