By Kevin Dackow, Zach Dixon, Melis Gökalp, and Maia Mongado


This software is incredibly powerful, relatively easy to use, and not too difficult setup... for non-VR devices. It is intended to provide astrophysicists at NASA and universities with a model of the current state of the observable universe, giving them the ability to see real-time data or simulate the past or future.

A note on usage for VR (by Mike Colonna): OpenSpace is currently in the process of enabling VR visualization with MinVR. As of right now, its implementation with OpenVR is not extensively documented and may be difficult to set up for those who are not proficient in C++.

Even if compiled successfully, OpenSpace only allows headset tracking and rendering with an HMD but no controls as of March 2021 (Source: OpenVR Building for OpenSpace) [Melis].

[March 2022] Currently, OpenSpace's OpenVR implementation is broken. The last working version only allowed headset tracking with an HMD. However, developers are working on it and planning an April release for the next prebuilt binary; they are hoping to have OpenVR working in this or at least in the near future.

Tutorial for Hello World

Simply follow the install instructions on the installation page! It worked pretty easily for Windows, but remains untested on MacOS and Linux.

Instructions for MacOS (Locally): [Melis, March 2021]

  1. Download the latest binary file for your OS.

  2. Unzip the downloaded file to your desired location (eg. /Applications)

  3. Open /OpenSpace/bin/OpenSpace executable file

  4. Choose the desired Window and Configuration settings and START.

Minimum System Requirements

  • Windows 10, most recent MacOS, most recent Linux distribution.

  • VisualStudio 17 64bit

  • 20+ GB of free memory

  • The more RAM the better. Was relatively slow on my PC with 16gb of RAM. Worked best on Graphics Lab computer.

Compiling on a VM/Windows Machine

  • Follow the instructions on the OpenSpace wiki page. It will be a difficult task if you are not familiar with CMake and Windows OS.

  • As of March 2022, this wiki is deprecated and compiling remotely using these instructions no longer works. [Maia]


Accessibility: The estimated time for someone to get it up and running

  • Beginner: No coding or graphics experience | 6+ hours

  • Intermediate: Some coding or graphics experience | 4 hours

  • Advanced: Both coding and graphics experience | 3 hours

  • Expert: A lot of experience with computer graphics | 1 hours

Power: The engine's power - i.e. how much one can do with this

  • High: It appears to be powerful, but is unfortunately not VR ready yet.

Usage: Evaluation of software's use for the following purposes

  • Art - Would be a great visualization tool for 3D graphics if other datasets can be used in it!

  • Game design - N/A

  • Science - built specifically for scientific visualization and works very well.

  • Education - detailed scientific data makes it useful for educational purposes [Melis, February 2021]


I loved the software, but unfortunately the VR readiness is still in beta, and that shows. It was impossible to get it setup to run in VR, despite following the instructions given on their site to the letter. I hope to see it improved in the future!

In a separate attempt, I was able to get it running in VR (after recompiling the whole thing, and some libraries), but the performance was so poor that it was unusable on an otherwise VR-ready PC. This is promising, but it has a ways to go. -Zach

In another attempt, I have tried to build it on a PaperSpace VM running Windows 10 and it was quite difficult to compile. The performance on VM and Virtual Screen is slow and poor. I found that it crashes whenever I attempted to click somewhere on the menu using a VR headset. [Melis]

I was able to obtain a prebuilt binary from the developers with OpenVR enabled (they had to roll back to beta 0.13 since it has been broken for a while). The performance on a Virtual Machine works fairly well; however, the prebuilt binary's screen was off and not centered. [Maia]

prebuilt binary VR in PaperSpace

Possibilities for Collaboration [Melis]

OpenSpace is a single-user experience by default, however its open source developing possibilities make it a candidate for multiplayer and collaborative use. One possibility is to have a driver user who would use the OpenSpace controls and navigate around the app while having the observer user just join the experience. The other possibility is allowing both users have controls within the app and navigate independently while still communicating and annotating the space data together. Potential issues with both of these ideas are the usability of the software on VR headsets as they tend to crash and slow down when used with Virtual View or other desktop streaming apps. Another issue is that compiling and installing the software is quite difficult (especially for in-class demo purposes), therefore it might require a longer amount of time to build a binary and make it easily accessible.