Like you were there: a demo of HERE on Samsung Gear VR

Pino Bonetti, Editor-in-chief
Berlin 52° 30' 57.852" N, 13° 22' 37.128" E

You've been told Paris is a beautiful and culturally rich city and you feel like you're the only one in the world who's never been. Time to book a long weekend there, but first of all you want to make sure it really is as magnificent as people say. Well, we experimented with our maps and the Samsung Gear VR (virtual reality) headset to develop a 'try before you buy' demo application. In our tests, you can instantly transport yourself to the city of lights or to Chicago.

The state-of-the-art reality capture technology combines high-res panorama photography with LiDAR remote sensing laser technology and allows HERE to create an unrivalled stereo effect – so much so that it feels like you could reach out and touch the scene.

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Virtual Reality has experienced quite a renaissance. In fact, its probably one of the greatest comebacks of the last few years. While previously it was on the endangered list of unworkable technologies, it’s now attracting a lot of attention.

Just in the last few days, at Mobile World Congress, HTC announced their new VR device, the Vive, and Sony is also working on its own VR headset. Not to mention the Whiplash VR complete with moveable chair for a total body experience.

But most importantly, Samsung and Oculus, the Facebook-owned VR company, introduced a new version of the Gear VR that can be powered by both the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the S6 Edge.

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Still, virtual reality is in its infancy. While hardware companies are coming up with increasingly sophisticated devices that are lighter, easier to use, and with better resolution, at HERE we are more interested in what people can do with them.

Right now the best applications for VR headsets are games, photo albums and movies. While all of this is great fun, for VR to really break through and become a household technology more useful applications need to be found.

The best of both worlds

With this in mind, we developed a concept to show how this new technology could use cloud services to get everyday tasks done, just like other smart devices you’re currently using. While our first demo shows how VR can be used for immersive city exploration, we envision a future where two friends in different places can plan a vacation together to a third destination. Not only do they meet virtually to discuss the options, but they can actually go there and “experience” the destination beforehand with the reality captured in our maps.

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As cartographers, we realise that paper maps have always offered the best overview. Digital maps, on the other hand, are much more interactive. This technology, however, has the potential to marry the best of both worlds: a bigger field of view with greater interactivity.

If you want to see it in action visit the Nokia booth at Mobile World Congress Hall 3, stand number 3B10.

As fun and immersive as a video game

Discovering places with HERE in a Samsung Gear VR feels like playing a real-world video game. The 3D city landscape anchors you to the scene as you select places with visual tracking. You can read reviews and see photos to get a feel for what the places are like inside just by panning the street view.

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Don’t forget to look up… and down! You can look into the sky to see information about the current time and weather in the area. To get your bearings, look down at the abstract map on the ground where you’ll see more of the street network along with your virtual position and orientation.

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The application also takes advantage of our abstract, segmented 3D geometry and POI-to-building associations to correctly display POIs in the panoramic photo and accurately highlight the building in which the POI can be found. No other mapping platform is capable of combining all of these high-tech assets into the experience that we see in this demo application.

We just started exploring what’s possible with our maps in a VR headset and this is of course just the tip of the iceberg. What kind of location-based application would you like to see in the future?

Topics: Latest News, Virtual Reality, Mobile Apps, Cartography, Fun Maps, Mobile World Congress, Editor's Picks

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