Parks Explorer VR - Version 1.1 Released

By Bill Swift

We just released version 1.1 of the Parks Explorer apps for Yosemite, Rocky Mountain, and Grand Canyon National Parks. We have taken all the customer feedback and all the customer use statistics and made exciting updates in a number of key areas:

  • enhanced graphics in both immersive 3D and VR modes
  • simplified user interface to improve ease of use, especially in VR mode
  • more robust VR functionality and menu operation to make navigation easy to top places and hiking trail start and destinations
  • better VR performance for Cardboard 

New in version 1.1 are the the new VR “gaze based” menu systems. With mobile, fingers and touch control the navigation mechanism, but with VR we are using “gaze” to control the navigation. With “gaze”, users select a button when they look at it for a short period of time. This easy and intuitive VR based selection mechanism allows highly visual menus to be used to select teleporting to top sights, jump to hiking trails menu, or selecting to fly around the park on your own.

The gaze based hiking menu allows you to select hike details for different sections of the park and then teleport to the hike start or destination. From there you can fly on your own, or just look around, and in similar fashion choose to teleport your next destination. This makes the VR mode functionality match the immersive 3D mode functionality.

The graphics and performance enhancements are really exciting as one of the challenges with VR is creating comfortable VR experiences. The main challenge here is when there is a difference between what the body expects to feel in a certain circumstance and what the eyes are seeing. Lags in graphics performance, lags between head movement and graphics, all contribute to user comfort level with VR. Optimizing performance, especially in mobile VR mode where the best results come from achieving the 60 frames per second maximum rate on the iPhone, is absolutely key to creating comfortable VR experiences. With the latest updates, we continue to optimize the user experience to enable more comfortable and longer sessions.

We hope you enjoy the updated versions. Work continues on new projects so stay connected by visiting our web site and new social media sites regularly. Please continue sending us your comments and feedback. Happy outdoor adventuring!