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Students in Michigan Develop Virtual Reality Hiking Experiences

Two high school students in Michigan have developed virtual reality (VR) experiences enabling viewers to go on adventurous expeditions.

One of the new experiences let participants trek to the South Kaibab Trail’s Skeleton Point by the Grand Canyon in Arizona. They can also visit Potato Chip Rock or Bridge to Nowhere in California, or climb atop Ohio’s Mother Miguel Mountain. The VR experience also let people explore Virginia’s Natural Tunnel State Park, and enjoy thrilling encounters like Michigan’s 308 Meguzee Point Road, or just stroll down the halls of the Elk Rapids High School. These experiences can be enjoyed from one’s home, owing to the efforts of students.

Garrison Waugh and Zak Miracle, two high school senior students, contributed their efforts to create virtual hiking encounters at multiple locations across the US. Their work, displayed on the website VR Hike, was achieved through collaboration with HikingGuy.com and Treadmill TV. They have developed upwards of 50 hikes across five states.

Waugh remarked that the team had undertaken a great deal of experimentation to date. He and project partner Miracle expressed that the enthusiasm for contributing to something like it came to them similarly, but across different settings. Waugh expressed that he was taken aback by the stunning views he saw at Hawaii’s Kuliouou Trail summit. He marvelled at the spellbinding 360-degree views of the island he got from there.

He remarked that this was the point when he got the idea of developing immersive virtual experiences. According to him, most individuals would never experience such a sight during their lives. He emphasized how the natural beauty of that magnitude was inaccessible to many.

Miracle also had a similar realization when going across the Yellowstone and Yosemite national parks. He explained that taking in all the surrounding views during his trips was quite the experience, describing the visuals as being beautiful. Miracle, like Waugh, also realised that most people were not fortunate enough to experience such a hiking experience.

VR Hikes made by the two students. Image source: interestingengineering

The duo had conversed a year earlier regarding collaboration about the project. According to Miracle, the project was originally meant to give people having limb related issues and ambulatory disabilities the opportunity to go on exciting hikes. Since then, a partnership of Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation and Munson Medical Center in Traverse City, Michigan, has contacted the duo in hopes of making the experiences real. Miracle said that letting people view the stunning visuals is the focus of the experience.

Holly Zatkovic, Elk Rapids High School AP chemistry teacher, has guided Waugh and Miracle right from the start of the project. According to her, the project is outstanding and generous. Zatkovic expressed pride regarding the inventiveness, inspiration and commitment shown by the two senior students. She added that the duo was on their way to becoming future innovators. Zatkovic also emphasized how the VR project had emerged from just an independent study project into something that will positively affect society. People can visit their website, check the map for hike experiences, and participate in the VR hikes with their smartphones and headsets.

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