VR will make explorers of us all

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Consumers are very aware of virtual reality technology and that the technology offers more than hyper realistic gaming environments. In fact, what consumers are most looking forward to is not gaming but travel, adventure and exploration experiences. This is the finding of the 2015 Virtual reality consumer report by Touchstone and Greenlight about consumer expectations for virtual reality.

In a survey of 2,250 U.S. consumers, travel and exploration categories registered the highest interest across all age, gender, and ethnicity groups, garnering the interest of 66% of respondents, higher than gaming.

This interest makes complete sense, doesn’t it? Toad’s unwise decisions in the Wind in the Willows, Bilbo Baggins’s quest in The Hobbit, and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series represent books that are essentially adventures that we as children mentally participate in. Later in history class students learn about great adventures of people like Sir Edmund Hillary and others who overcome great obstacles to realise their dreams.

Up to now we could have vivid mental images of these adventures, but we could never experience them ourselves. Virtual reality has the power to turn our mental images into actual experiences, taking us where we thought we’d never be able to go.

How about becoming Bilbo Baggins and taking on trolls, goblins, talking spiders and Gollum that threaten your quest? Wouldn’t you have loved to have been on the Beagle with Charles Darwin exploring the Galapagos Islands? How about exploring the depths of the ocean or the inside of a volcano, the Amazon or the Gobi desert?

From Reykjavik, Iceland, comes a VR company that is creating what promises to be an amazing exploration experience. Sólfar Studios in partnership with RVX, a visual effects and animation studio, is creating a VR exploration experience, called EVEREST VR. RVX was responsible for the visual effects in the movie Everest. The aim is for VR users to experience what it feels like to get to the summit of the world’s highest mountain. Inside EVEREST VR there’s the Basecamp, the Khumbu Icefalls, the Lhotse Face, the Hillary Step, and finally the summit of Everest. Immersed in the endless white cold, exhausted with the icy wind on their face, climbers will leave the experience with new respect for the mountain and those who have conquered her in real life.

Attendees at CES 2016 were able to experience a demo of EVEREST VR thanks to an event hosted by Nvidia, a visual computing company. Nvidia used the event to show off the workings of its GTX 970 and GTX 980 series graphics cards using the HTC Vive.

In the words of Andy Boxall, technical journalist at Digital Trends who experienced the demo: “I stood on the edge of a precipice, frozen from cold, faced with a terrifying walk across an ice-encrusted rope bridge that was precariously suspended across a crevasse hundreds of feet deep. My legs turned to jelly, and I almost fell to my knees.” Sounds fully immersive and convincing.

With virtual exploration predicted to be a breakthrough application for VR, this Sólfar Studios product is bound to be a hit with consumers.