By Scott Seiden
My engineer friend Bill Swift is at it again making innovative technology. This time around he’s applying his talent to a life-long passion for the great outdoors by creating a completely new way to explore and discover our national park treasures.
You see, Bill has been an avid park explorer from his college days--when after graduation he travelled across the country visiting and backpacking the parks—to his family’s recent summers--when his then 11-year old son wanted to climb to the top of Yosemite Falls, but just before they departed for the trip, broke his arm. So, during the family vacation the very next year they conquered that hike and for good measure they climbed to the top of Half Dome the following day. In his new technology endeavor, Bill decided to dedicate his engineering efforts to make national park visits better for everyone using the advancements in mobile media content to completely reshape the outdoor vacation experience.
Bill received inspiration to start his new venture, High Mountain Data, while gazing upon the majestic mountains across Lake Tahoe, always trying to figure out exactly what peaks he was admiring. If only he had some quick and easy way to find out? He desired something more than guide books and maps, and found that most of the digital park guides available were unsatisfying in terms of their visual impact and use models. In a perfect world, Bill thought that park guides should leverage the latest wave of mobile technologies where 3D graphics and animation, use of intelligence, and the intersection of Virtual Reality put the most popular outdoor places at your fingertips. No more flipping through text pages or struggling with ill-conceived interfaces to find what he wanted.
Now, summer is nearly upon us, and so too is family vacation time once again. If you’re thinking about visiting a National Park this summer, or anytime for that matter, you owe it to yourself to check out High Mountain Data’s Parks Explorer suite of visually immersive mobile applications on your iPhone or iPad. What’s so special about these mobile-first solutions is that they integrate several valuable functions into one easy-to-use experience on your chosen device. The “Plan and Go” drive, hike, maps, explore user interface is simple to navigate and immediately rewarding, especially for those of us middle-aged folks who would love to visit the parks as much as we can.
High Mountain Data’s Parks Explorer suite has captured the essentials of park travel and tour planning. You get immediate gratification from the automatic road and trail flyovers, just click the name of the road or trail, push go, and you can then see what that drive or hike would be like. Put on your Google cardboard for a 3D VR experience of flying over of the park terrain. You will get to know exactly where all the major sites are located so you get the lay of the land very fast. When you have more than a few minutes to spend, you can check out the suggested tour itineraries that you can explore or create your own custom tour, view it, save it, show it to the family to get their approval, etc.
The utility doesn’t stop at exploring and planning. Once you arrive at the park, use the navigation and GPS capabilities as a quick reference guide to chart your course, and the 360 degree viewing mode helps you know exactly what you are seeing around you, no network required. Best of all, High Mountain Data is offering the Parks Explorer suite for free on a limited time basis. So, click on over to the Apple Store and download Yosemite or Grand Canyon and check it out. Come back frequently as High Mountain Data plans to roll out many more parks over the coming months.