The Samsung and Oculus Gear VR headset is just about to be released and virtual reality fever is rampant. But how could HERE take advantage of VR to deliver a new set of location experiences? That was the challenge we set to our staff in a competition recently.
Two weeks ago, we profiled the Grand Theft HERE team and its attempts to create a walk-around experience of LA with real transit systems in place. This time, we turn to the makers of another intriguing prototype, Cycling VR.
“Let’s say you’re a really keen cyclist,” says HERE software engineer and team member Iurii Kudriavtsev.
“In good weather, you can go out and cycle wherever you please. But if the weather is bad, then perhaps you have a cycling machine to keep up with your hobby.”
“The problem with cycling machines is that you’re stuck looking at the same wall when you’re taking your exercise. We thought that virtual reality could offer something a lot more interesting.”
So how did the team go about creating this?
“Internally, we have 3D tools and models in development which uses HERE map data to recreate the whole of Chicago. We saw that we could marry that with the Unity 3D gaming engine to create an experience for the Gear VR.”
The team created an Android app for the Gear VR which takes home-bound cyclists on a virtual tour of Chicago.
“We also attached a Bluetooth sensor to the bike, so that the virtual trip matches to the speed at which you’re cycling,” adds Iurii.
Tip to trip
The whole effort took the team just two weeks split between them to come up with a working prototype – pretty impressive for what it does, but Iurii wishes they could go further.
“It would be great if we’d had time to introduce real steering into the app, so you could go wherever you like by tipping your head.”
Despite many years of development, Virtual Reality is still in its infancy when it comes to real, commercial applications and it’s not at all likely that these HERE experiments will ever become publicly available. We can still dream, though.
Iurii tells us: “It’s a very exciting new area of technology, but it’s all about finding ideas that are commercially viable.”
“There’s no way of knowing the future, but I’d love us to be able to provide HERE map data to games companies, so that you could go out and shoot monsters in a real Berlin – or Chicago. Or that travel agencies could show you a tour of wherever you want to go, while you’re wearing a VR kit in your office.”
How would you like to see HERE in a virtual world?