Not content with turning OS data into a Minecraft world, our OS Labs team have now created a virtual Ben Nevis to explore on Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard. In Oculus Rift, our developers have created a game where players race against the clock to find a hidden trig pillar. For those of us without access to Oculus Rift, our dev team have built a virtual reality tour of Ben Nevis. You can try it out on iOS and Android along with Google Cardboard to experience the virtual reality 3D affect.
Why are we putting OS data into the virtual reality world?
As with our Minecraft maps, we thought people would be interested in how our data can work in the virtual world. At OS we’re constantly examining the data that is available and its uses in emerging technologies, to look for future improvements to our data and products for our customers.
Our developers were also interested in the virtual reality possibilities. Alex Davies-Moore was an early pioneer of the uses and capabilities of iBeacon technology for geospatial Internet of Things solutions, and David Haynes is a specialist in 3D mapping and virtual reality.
David sees these technologies as a passport for people who want to experience the sights and sounds of places they can’t get to, and as a planning tool for people preparing to visit these places. Alex likes the added sense of reality that OS’ data brings to the virtual world He thinks that the more we play with this technology and experiment with putting real world data into it the more realistic these world’s will become, and so the number of commercial end uses will increase.
And, as today is Back to the Future day (15/10/2015), it’s only fitting that we have a virtual reality offering along the lines of Marty McFly’s hi-tech specs too…
How did we create Ben Nevis in virtual reality?
Our developers Alex and David have created Britain’s highest mountain in 1:4 scale, covering a 10×10 km area. It took the duo just two days to create both the Oculus and Cardboard versions, starting with Unity 3D, a well-known and easy-to-use gaming engine. They used a 10k square of OS Terrain 5, with 0.5m resolution imagery from OS OnDemand and loaded elevation data as a height map into Unity 3D. Unity’s built in level-of-detail terrain system was used to render the terrain. It was a single project in Unity that outputs for web, mobile and desktop, with a mix of VR support from Oculus Rift SDK for desktop and Google’s Cardboard SDK for mobile.
If you’re a trig pillar fan and wonder how that was created (assuming you make it to the top of Ben Nevis to see it!) – Alex and David used Blender to custom model it, adding texture maps from a real trig pillar.
How can I explore Ben Nevis without leaving my armchair?
We wanted to give as many of you as possible a chance to try this out and we know that Oculus Rift isn’t widely available. For any graduates visiting the OS stands at careers fairs this month – you’ll have the chance to try it out in person and play the game. As an aside, if you’re prone to motion sickness as I am, the full Oculus version can be a little unsettling!
If you have a set of Google Cardboard to hand, download our apps for iOS or Android devices and have a virtual reality tour on Ben Nevis. The irony of encouraging you all to explore Ben Nevis from your sofa, whilst also encouraging you to #GetOutside hasn’t been lost on us…
For everyone else – we’ve created a video to give you a feel for the virtual reality Ben Nevis that we’ve created.
Or you can watch the split screen version and climb a mountain in a minute.
What’s next for OS and virtual reality?
We don’t have any current plans to create further virtual worlds, but what we have shown is that it can be done. In terms of future uses, right now it’s the perfect medium for visualisation. It can be used for planning or as a test environment for running scenarios. By putting real world data into the virtual world, you gain a level of experience and understanding of an environment that can only be bettered by actually being there.
Try it out and let us know what you think.
Read our full news release.