Now You too Can Climb Mount Everest…in VR
Just 4,000 individuals have achieved the summit of Mount Everest ever, now with Virtual Reality that number is going to increase dramatically. Sólfar Studios, Reykjavík, Iceland-based designer has made another experience, Everest VR that will be playable on HTC Vive, PlayStation VR, and Oculus Rift, in the not so distant future.
Although an actual hike up this giant will take eight weeks, the virtual experience will be over in a matter of hours. What’s more? The cost of a Vive, PlayStation VR SNE – 0.62% or Rift FB 9.57% will be nowhere near the $45,000 of real, hard cash required to scale the actual Mountain Everest. In addition, virtual reality is a lot more secure, which goes without saying.
Sólfar Studios’ co-founder, Thor Gunnarsson, says virtual reality is particularly capable of absorbing gamers in places that they would some way or another never think of visiting in real life.
“By recreating key moments of the climbing experience in a first-person immersive and interactive setting with near photo-real visual fidelity, we felt we could deliver a meaningful glimpse of this dream,” Gunnarsson says.
Everest VR is not a specialized climbing mock-up, in as much as Gunnarsson trusts that it could help a few players gain control of their acrophobia, fear of heights. Finding the ‘center of gravity’ between exact recreation and availability turned out to be the tough nut the studio had to crack.
“Maintaining verisimilitude is important, but at the same time we´re not setting out to create a hiking simulator or highly technical mountaineering game,” Gunnarsson says. “The trick is to find that balance. Give players a series of key vignettes or experiences that really evoke those key moments of an expedition, and do those in a fashion that is faithful to the emotional experience climbers have of the mountain.”
Sólfar Studios sought assistance with RVX, the Reykjavik-based special effects and animation studio in charge of the visual impacts in executive Baltasar Kormákur’s Everest Hollywood motion picture, which Universal Pictures premiered in cinemas last September, for help in accomplishing this.
“RVX had real experience from the mountain, shooting high resolution photos that we felt could be used to create a 3D scene in VR using stereo photogrammetry, a technique that uses actual photos to calculate the underlying geometry and applies those photographs to the resulting model as texture maps,” Gunnarsson says.
New Zealand game developer Dean Hall, designer of the famous PC diversion DayZ, also went on to Solfar Studios to discuss his own particular encounters in climbing Everest with the group. The chief animator for Solfar Studios, Óðinn Árnason, is an accomplished ice, and mountain climber, and Gunnarsson says his ability was key for the more tech side of the gizmo utilized in mountaineering.
Everest VR was created utilizing Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 4 tech. Gunnarsson says that one could record areas like Everest with a 360-degree camera; the subsequent experience is a motionless, inert video encounter that simply doesn’t quite cut it for the intrinsic guarantee of virtual reality.