The real reason people travel
What makes people suddenly decide they want to travel somewhere? Well, it is usually a photo. You might be sitting in your living room and then suddenly a National Geographic photograph catches your eye or it may be a special post on Instagram. Or maybe, you are searching for an image on Google and then unexpectedly a photograph comes up that takes your breath away. That photograph awakens something within you, something that makes you want to discover and explore that place for yourself.
What are you feeling and experiencing at this very moment as you gaze at this photo?
You notice that you are standing between the magnificent canyon walls. You hear the echo of the raindrops in this cave-like environment. You tilt your head back to look up and see the sun shine through the giant Jurassic like ferns, casting its rays onto the shimmering water below. You wish to be here, to experience this magnificent lost world, this natural cathedral of ferns, water, and light, this true Garden of Eden.
You book a plane ticket and head over with great excitement.
The place is closed!
You see this problem happening time and time again. Whether it is the lava flowing on the Big Island of Hawaii, a beautiful waterfall, a magic swimming hole, or an ancient Roman house, or even a short hike into the Grand Canyon. The locals or officials there will be quick to inform you that it is closed, out of bounds, dangerous, private, under repair etc. The list is endless.
It is especially irritating if the attractive photo in question came from a tourist website. Why use photos like that to lure people in, only to tell them the place is off-limits upon arrival? Talk about feeling short-changed!
Liability is the main concern. The swimming hole could be close due to the dangerous rip tides. The only way to get to the waterfall might just be a really difficult descent, where people have been seriously injured before. The location may have suffered from over-saturation of tourists and needed to be closed in order to recover.
I was once with a tour group in the Grand Canyon and, despite the fact that we were prepared for the hike into the canyon, a Park Ranger stopped at nothing when trying to convince us to not go down. People had died of thirst there, he said. People had passed out and had to be airlifted out, and so on. We ended up doing the hike regardless and of course we had the time of our lives.
It’s a tough job for the Rangers. If something goes wrong, it all falls on them. There tend to be a lot of reckless people who will do anything just for the taste of adventure or the perfect Instagram shot, and by doing so put themselves in a great danger. On the other hand, we have reached the point where it is almost impossible to go for an ordinary hike without being told you are putting your life at tremendous risk just by stepping out of the car.
So you stick with the crowds, you never venture off the beaten track and you take your Instagram selfies, but you never get the chance to truly explore the place and experience it in its glory without the crowds and the noise. Just you and the beautiful silence, majesty of Nature all around you, this is the best way to experience it. And so of course your trip ends in disappointment.
We believe all humans thirst for adventure, exploration and majestic solitude but it is becoming harder than ever before to find it without bumping into “closed” signs, or crowds of Instagrammers all trying to do the same thing.
What if there was a way for anyone, regardless of age, physical ability, location or financial means, to get this sense of wonder and beauty, and explore the world just the way they wanted, from the comfort of their sofa or even a hospital bed? What if there was a technology that could allow you to feel what it was really like in the most beautiful caves or canyons of the world? What if you could look around, look up, feel like you are touching the walls, get the massive sense of scale, and walk around and explore?
Virtual Reality can achieve that.
Claustral Canyon is a remote slot canyon in Australia that looks like something straight out of Indiana Jones. I originally heard of this place through a National Geographic article. It took my breath away. The photo awoke a part of me that wanted to travel, discover, journey around the world and be the explorer.
Michael and I ventured there and he took the incredible photograph shown above.
The canyon can only be accessed by rappelling down three precipitous waterfalls with the help of guides. You need to wear a wetsuit, do a lot of swimming, and keep an eye out for dangerous snakes. That puts it out of access for most people.
When we arrived in Australia and mentioned at the local tourist office that we were going into Claustral they immediately said “You can’t. It’s closed. It’s on private land, and too dangerous”. You could see them breathe a sigh of relief when we mentioned we’d organized a descent with guides who they knew.
We raised funds through Kickstarter to laser scan and photograph the canyon, as a Virtual Reality experience for the local visitors’ centre.
We had to get written permission from the Parks Service to do this and this was no easy task. Our main goal was that a Virtual Reality experience would allow people to feel what it was really like inside the canyon, and learn about it, without them needing to be there and put themselves or the environment at risk.
People of all ages and backgrounds can now enjoy the “Virtual Canyon” experience at the Blue Mountains Heritage Centre at Govetts Leap in Blackheath. For the first time ever, Claustral Canyon is no longer a mysterious unknown place deep in the rainforest. Two Oculus Rift stations now allow visitors to immerse themselves in the canyon, and fly around with total unrestricted freedom. We have had very positive feedback on this Virtual Reality experience, which is now available in the Oculus Store.
“Virtual Reality Claustral Canyon is simply gorgeous – probably a 10/10 experience within its genre. I’m thankful for the devs for showing me such an awesome place that I would probably never get to see in the real world.”
“This is visually absolutely brilliant and the only way I will ever be able to explore this gorgeous place”.
“Thank you very much for sharing all of your creations for people to enjoy. It is such a pleasure listening to visitors “Wow” or “OMG, this is amazing” when experiencing the Virtual Reality Claustral Canyon. Gee whiz, I feel lucky we are able to offer this amazing experience in our Visitor Centre.”
What we do at Lost Eagle
Lost Eagle uses the most advanced imaging techniques to produce virtual organic replicas of the natural world, allowing you to feel right up close with Nature and giving you a sense of adventure and excitement that can normally only be felt by actually being there.
We endeavour to bottle up a feeling of awe, like the moment Lucy steps out of the wardrobe into the magical wintry world of Narnia and looks around her in amazement.
We model everything down to the tiniest detail, including trees, pebbles, and even twigs and leaves.
We believe true immersion can only be achieved by allowing total freedom to explore. We believe people are craving explorable 3D. It is the next step in immersive media. 3D stereo videos are great – until you try to move around or get up and you realize you cannot. Six degrees of freedom (bending down, turning your head sideways and forwards) is the next step, but to break the bounds and really move into the future we have to be able to get up and walk around as if we were there.
The latest headsets allow you to get up and move around, which we believe represents a true milestone in the evolution of this technology. It is complete and absolute escapism. It has to be seen to be believed.
Our desire is to make people almost feel like they have been transported to Nature’s most beautiful and inaccessible places.
The thought of being able to put a magic helmet on your head and teleport yourself to another world still seems like a crazy dream. Whether it is the Holodeck in Star Trek, the linking books of Myst, or the magical worlds of Narnia. But what if this wasn’t a dream and could be achieved right now?
Imagine, for just a moment, a world where people could actually be teleported anywhere they wanted to go. Yes, they would actually be there in reality!
Where would you go and why?
Would it be the top of Mont Blanc? Italy’s Amalfi coast? An ancient caldera? A beautiful temple in Japan? A hidden waterfall in Tahiti?
What if you could visit these places by yourself in Virtual Reality and see these places the way they were truly meant to be seen, without the crowds, the expense, the jetlag, and the hassle of travel?
What if the visual stimulus was so real that there was no discernable difference between Virtual Reality and reality and people no longer cared whether the experience was real or not?