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Christchurch’s NZ Space Challenge finalists design Pokémon GO-style navigational system

17 May 2018

A Pokémon GO-style augmented reality system could be the answer to navigating the Extreme Environments of Antarctica and outer Space.

The advanced reality system – the brain child of Christchurch start-ups JIX Limited and Orbica Limited – is one of the five NZ Space Challenge regional finalists that have been announced this week. The two businesses teamed-up to design an innovative solution to navigate some of outer space’s trickiest pitfalls using the system.

Christchurch is home to the inaugural New Zealand Space Challenge, bringing together some of the brightest minds from across the country to use space data and intelligence to solve navigation issues on the ice in the Antarctic.

JIX augmented/virtual reality specialist Sakthi Ranganathan and Orbica geospatial innovator Santosh Seshadri are the masterminds behind the idea to design a navigation system that uses holographs and geospatial datasets to visualise the physical environment and navigate the terrain of Antarctica.

 JIX specialises in creating augmented and virtual reality experiences of real world environments and Orbica specialises in geospatial technology. Both companies are coming together to provide the novel solution, Seshadri said.

“Our mission is to develop a scalable, reliable and intuitive navigation system through geospatial technologies and augmented reality systems to solve logistical problems in extreme environments by employing the existing space data to be used in diverse and hazardous navigation expeditions.”

 “We plan to develop an intuitive navigation system that is also reliable and effectual by holographic projection for planning and AR systems to guide the Antarctica drivers through a portable GPS unit/screen,” Ranganathan said.

The NZ Space Challenge is the brain child of space enthusiasts and entrepreneurs, Eric Dahlstrom and Emeline Paat-Dahlstrom who have forged international careers in the space community and have chosen to settle in New Zealand, establishing SpaceBase with fellow co-founder Rich Bodo.

 SpaceBase has partnered with economic development agency ChristchurchNZ to deliver this national challenge.

ChristchurchNZ chief executive Joanna Norris says Christchurch is home to a tech sector full of world-class ingenuity, as clearly demonstrated by the local finalists.

“We’re very proud to support the growth of our local tech sector, which is the second-largest in New Zealand,” Ms Norris says.

“We’re very proud to support the growth of our local tech sector," - ChristchurchNZ CE Joanna Norris,

 “Christchurch currently has all the componentry to support a future space industry. We’re also at the forefront of providing innovative solutions to today’s current navigational and scientific challenges in Antarctica.

“Christchurch also plays a unique and important role in connecting Antarctic research with outer space as one of only five global gateways to Antarctica,” Ms Norris says. 

The winner of the NZ Space Challenge will be announced next week as part of Christchurch’s top Techweek’18 event, Extreme Environments – from Antarctica to Space, where the regional finalists will pitch their Antarctic navigation innovations to a panel of national and international judges with $40k going to the winning designer.

The event will appeal to those from the science, research, technology, innovation and education eco-systems and anybody with an interest in the Antarctic and Space and saving the world.

The other four regional finalists in the NZ Space Challenge are as follows:

  • Gisborne, Hawkes Bay and Waikato
  • Kiwi Orbitals, with their completely reusable, recoverable, aerospike powered suborbital rocket – designed to carry 4kg to 40km altitude.
  • Auckland, Northland and Bay of Plenty
  • GPS Control Systems Ltd, with their new way of transporting large-scale science projects further into the polar region than before via robotics.
  • Dunedin, Southland and Otago
  • Deep Space Labs, who have developed new multi-spectral data analysis techniques, powered by machine learning and artificial intelligence that will allow for safe, quick, and inexpensive science to be conducted across Antarctica and throughout the solar system.
  • Wellington, Palmerston North, Wanganui and Taranaki
  • UTIG Cryo Group, who have based their solution on a proven autonomous airborne radar system, analysis techniques developed for the reconnaissance of the icy moon Europa, and Antarctic demonstrated drone technology.