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Taking a Look At SEGA's Home Planetarium!

Did you know SEGA released a planetarium?! DrScottnik brings you a special video, taking a look at the range of galaxy-ready products!

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Space… The final frontier.

Every night, humans look up to the night sky to the sight of thousands of stars, leading our imaginations to explode with myths and legends of these constellations. Or, at least we used to. In this modern age, we defy our natural instinct of sleep to stay awake longer into the night, using light to help guide us through the dark. And though it does bring us many conveniences, there are still costs, and one of those is light pollution.

The overuse of street, house, car and other unnatural misdirected lights are what creates the issue of light pollution. It washes out starlight in the night sky, interferes with astronomical research, disrupts ecosystems, and even has adverse health effects for our sleep patterns. While many small remote towns in many countries get to experience a beautiful night sky, the same can’t be said about cities like New York and London, which are engulfed with Light pollution...  

So; let’s say you live in a big city but still want to experience a beautiful night sky in the comfort of your home. Well, that’s where this comes in: The SEGAToys HomeStar.

 

In 2005, SEGA Toys collaborated with engineer Takayuki Ohira, the engineer behind the planetarium projector 'Mega Star,' and created a planetarium for the home. The planetarium has the capability to cast projections of thousands of otherwise unviewable stars onto your ceiling, all through the use of projection discs.

Since its 2006 inception, the Homestar has gone through many iterations; including a Spa edition, Resort edition, Travel edition, and many Star Wars collaborations. Today, SEGAToys focuses on two main products - The SEGA Homestar Original and the Homestar Flux, coming in at $149 and $229 USD respectively. 

At the $149 mark, the SEGA Homestar original is a more approachable product in terms of its price. Weighing in at 1.21 lbs, this product can project up to 60 000 stars using it’s 3-watt LED projector light. With a projection distance of 150 cm to 230 cm and diameter of roughly 270cm, which is broad enough to cover most small bedroom ceilings. This sturdy plastic device works with small, high-definition discs that can be swapped in and out with ease. Two of these discs are included with the product. One disc depicts the Northern Hemisphere night sky, and it's companion disk shows an addition of lines to help you spot the constellations. The only catch is it does require some fine tuning of the focus ring located by the projector, which can often be a nuisance. It’s also important to note that the edges of the projection will be softer than the centre, though in many instances it isn’t too much of a problem. 

For an extra $80 comes the Homestar Flux, and the perks of a bigger price tag is evident straight away when comparing the packaging. While the classic comes in a basic cardboard box, the Flux is housed in a beautiful white packaging with silver designs throughout, protected with a black sleeve. When opening the product up, you will find the Flux has a matte finish as opposed to the basic plastic of the original design. While these small touches do give the presentation of a more premium product, how do the internals and functions of the Flux differ from the original? Well, The Flux has increased wattage from 3 watts to 5 for increased LED projection clarity, allowing even more stars to shine through with a higher quality image. This edition has a projection focal distance of 120cm to 290cm, with a diameter of approximately 290cm, just beating out the cheaper Classic edition. When viewing the projection from the Flux, There is a clear difference visible in terms of it’s range, focus and brightness. Ultimately, choosing the right product will come down to personal preference. While the Flux provides a clearer and brighter image, the original has a softer look to it, providing somewhat of a more lifelike experience when it comes to the Northern Hemisphere disc. Though when it comes to the additional discs, the Flux absolutely crushes the Classic with it’s beautiful clarity. 

And speaking of additional discs - they can be bought separately for $29 USD, with options such as a 'galaxy' disc, the Southern Hemisphere sky, and a 'comet' disc, just to name a few. Personally, the Northern Hemisphere star maps included with the unit and the Southern Hemisphere star map are definitely my favourites, though the others are still fun additions. 

Both Homestars include a rotate feature that slowly moves the projection either clockwise or anti clockwise, a little addition that adds so much to the experience in helping one become entranced. Also included is the ability to see shooting stars pass by, a cool novelty, though these shooting stars don’t look particularly realistic. And of course there are the options to switch the device off after a certain amount of time, so you don’t have to worry as you fall asleep.

That’s the technicals of these machines, but what is the actual experience like? If you’ve ever been to an area not affected by light pollution and you’ve been able to see a night sky brimming with stars, you will know it’s a view like no other. It takes you out of the now, your mind in awe of all the things that could be out there. The SEGAToys Homestar does an incredible job of replicating that feeling while remaining within the comfort of your home, the feeling of laying in your bed looking up, entranced as the constellations slowly spin above you. It’s an incredibly meditative experience, something I do at least once a week before falling asleep. It is difficult to comprehend the impact of the product through a single video, and I recommend experiencing it yourself to fully appreciate it.

These products are a great purchase for all ages. If you're interested in astronomy or want something to help calm you at night, the Homestar Original is a brilliant product. Though I would have to suggest only astronomy enthusiasts pick up the Homestar Flux as it does come with a rather steep price tag. 

 

And that's not all when it comes to Homestar; In 2018, SEGAToys, in collaboration with The Pocket Company and Ohira Tech, released the HomeStar VR Experience for PSVR, the Oculus range, Vive and Gear VR. The experience has two versions: a $10 version and $35 Special Edition. How does this experience compare to the physical products and is it worth a purchase? 

In both editions of the experience you will find 3 main modes. First up is World Sky Time Travel, which allows you to see the night sky from places around the world on any date since 1901. It is a cool gimmick to see what the night sky once looked like in your home country on the day you were born, or to see the night sky in Antarctica 30 years ago, whenever and wherever. The VR Celestial planetarium is the main attraction here, with 4 guides available in both editions and an additional 3 in the special edition. This mode is as close to visiting an actual planetarium as you can get without physically going to one. You sit in a virtual seat while being guided throughout different seasons of the night sky, stories and myths relating to the many constellations being told to you by either a female english narrator, a female japanese narrator or a male japanese narrator… but the only catch is no subtitles. The 3 extra guides included in the special version of this application are a nice addition. With the standout being a retelling of the classic Milky Way Train story, the highlight of the VR Celestial planetarium mode.

 

Some interesting trophies are also included within the special edition experience for the PS4, but there are very few. Having so few feels like a missed opportunity- as they encouraged me to do some research on comets and satellites to spot when they would be visible around the world. If more of these achievements were added it could have provided an extra aspect of education and entertainment value giving players more hours of enjoyment!

Finally, there is the Starry Sky selection, which places you in a particular spot around the world to see what the night sky looks like from that location. The standard edition has 7 locations while the special edition includes 10. These locations range from Japan to New Zealand to America, and while they are a nice thought, It's easy to lose interest after a short period of time. This is where my biggest criticism comes into play. These locations could be gorgeous to look at, but unless you have a high resolution VR headset you will not get much joy and wonder from this application, especially if you are using the Playstation 4’s PSVR. And, with the extra $25 slapped onto the special edition, I would suggest passing on this- unless you are incredibly interested and have a high resolution VR headset. 

 

And there we have it. SEGAToys Homestar, in two different formats. While I don’t entirely recommend the VR versions unless you are fortunate enough to find it on sale, I do highly suggest picking up the physical product; whether that be the original or Flux, depending on your interest and budget. This product really does open doors for those in heavily light polluted areas- and for some, it's an opportunity to see the stars in a way they might never do otherwise. A neat little gadget, indeed!


4th July, 2021 - 19:17 GMT DrScottnik Article viewed 194 times 0 Comments

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