Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Adventure Tech: The North Face Uses Virtual Reality to Take Us to Nepal

Way back in January of this year, I told you about a project that The North Face had been working on to use virtual reality technology to provide an immersive outdoor experience to customers visiting the company's retail stores. The initial VR videos took viewers to Yosemite National Park and Moab, Utah where they could explore the landscapes there using high tech VR headsets and incredible 3D movies. Now, that program is expanding further, this time taking us into the Himalaya in Nepal.

The new VR film is entitled "The North Face: Nepal" and it was made in conjunction with Jaunt Studios. It is a 3D film that offers 360ยบ views of the mountain landscapes found in that country in high definition, but with the ability to look in any direction at any given time. The video was shot in Nepal last February, in the heart of winter, providing a look at the Himalaya at a time of the year that few people ever get to experience. It was then that TNF athlete Renan Ozturk traveled to the mountains to test the new Summit Series of gear, and he helped capture the VR footage.

The film reportedly takes us from the city into the foothills of the Himalaya, before proceeding up into the mountains themselves. The journey begins in the famed Monkey Temple in Kathmandu, passes through the Thamel shopping district, before proceeding out to the Khumbu Valley, passing through villages along the way. Eventually it takes us to the top of Lobuche Peak as well.

As with the previous VR videos, this one will be available in The North Face retail outlets. But, you don't have to visit those stores to get an idea of what this virtual reality experience is all about. The video is also available for free from the Google Play and iOS App store through the Jaunt app. Don't own a pair of VR goggles to watch it through? Than just pick up the latest issue of Outside magazine, as it comes with a Google Cardboard headset that will help approximate the full experience.

This story, coupled with the one earlier in the week about a virtual reality version of Everest coming in 2016, heralds the advent of a new era in VR technology. The promise of virtual reality has been out there for decades, but it seems like we finally have the proper tech to make it truly happen. While these experiences will never replace the actually feeling of going outside and visiting these places for ourselves, it is still exciting to see it all come together.

I haven't had the chance to try out one of these VR films yet, but I think I may have to make a point of dropping by my North Face store very soon. Find out more about the "Nepal Experience" in this article from Outside Online.

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