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HERE gears up for virtual reality

The consumer-ready version of Gear VR from Samsung and Oculus is about to be released. At HERE, we’re all very excited about the potential of virtual reality and so we held a friendly competition for our most passionate developers. What applications did they come up with?

The use cases for virtual and augmented reality (VR) are untold and the technology is still quite young. In fact, according to Jens Unger, a lead architect for HERE, imagination and ideas currently surpass the capabilities for real-time, detailed VR experiences.

For example, images are memory intensive and current VR devices work off of smartphones, which have limited memory. Thus, developers will have to work around these limits for now to ensure proper functionality.

Real-time VR

Jens, and his friend and colleague Thomas Bielagk, senior developer, were one of two teams of winners in the internal HERE VR contest by coming up with the “Grand Theft HERE” application. “We always wanted to make something for virtual reality, and we have so many cool APIs in our company, we thought why not?” he says.

The idea pays homage to the famous video game series, Grand Theft Auto, the latest instalment of which is played in an “amazingly done” and incredibly detailed version of Los Angeles. However, Jens and Thomas were after a pared down view of a city, one that offers a simplified, more browseable picture of the real world — which often comes with too much noise — and one that contains real-time information.

First, they put the street network into the VR space. 3D buildings were the next layer, and then, to bring the world to life, they added real-time transit information. Jens explained: “We put in all the tram and bus stops and added a display to show when the next bus would arrive. And we didn’t stop there. We also used an API that enables the current positions and speeds of the buses to be shown.” After a few days of work, the city of Berlin came to life.


GTH bus

This development didn’t come without a few bumps and bruises — when testing out the application, Jens and Thomas admit they sometimes bumped into a desk or wall when dodging a few buses. “You forget how immersive the technology is,” says Jens.

This is only the beginning. Jens notes: “Ideas are flowing in. We are in the exploration phase and have plans to build up the engine to be a better place without losing its simplicity. We want the user to run free through the city and discover transit and places, use vehicles or a bus for a tour and have a platform for future research projects or demos.”


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