Andrew Glover, founder of Immersive Technology Studios in Barre, joined VPR recently to explain the artistic cache behind his latest project called, Vermont Peaks, which he describes as "Vermont's largest art exhibit."
He and his team plan to lug up the necessary tripods and high-tech photography equipment to each of Vermont's peaks and, according to the KickStarter campaign site, capture "Vermont’s picturesque panoramic mountaintop views in high-definition HDR images."
The team will then bring the images back to their Barre headquarters and assemble them "into the finest interactive 360-degree landscape viewing experiences Vermont has ever had to offer."
Glover programs in seven different computer languages and is a self-described "tech guy." But an autumn hike inspired him to create a way to share the panoramic views of Vermont's peaks with everyone.
What was the catalyst for Vermont Peaks?
"Vermont Peaks is kind of a collision of art, photography, nature and technology really combining into a unique virtual reality experience where we hope people will be able to experience the views and the awe-inspiring mountain tops that Vermont has to offer. I'm an avid hiker. I love getting outdoors and hiking from Underhill State Park right up to the top of Mansfield.
"Last fall, we started down low and it was blue skies, beautiful foliage and as we got higher and higher, we hit a level and all of a sudden, we went from warmish to snow. And I'm seeing snow above me and beautiful fall foliage below me and I say, 'I need to capture this! I need to share this!'
"So I take out my phone and I dial FaceTime. And my parents, who live in Virginia are avid hikers. And I flip my phone around and I'm showing them this amazing, beautiful view. And my Dad says, 'That's really great. I wish I could be there with you.' I'm a technology guy. I'm an art guy. I'm a nature guy: 'What if you could?' And that got me thinking and coming up with a solution to be able to share the experience of being on top of Vermont's most beautiful mountains with the world. That's what Vermont Peaks is really all about."
How does virtual reality change the way people can experience art, photography and nature?
"VR has the ability to open up the world to people who can't experience it themselves. There are a lot of people who would like to experience Vermont's peaks but don't have access to them. There's something very therapeutic about being outdoors and that's an experience that people lose as they're online more and more and having more screen time.
"And that's my hope that viewing these VR experiences will inspire them to put down that screen and get out and explore the world. I think people get hung up with the VR, 'Oh, it's a gaming thing. A gamer is gonna put on the is headset and they're gonna ignore the rest of the world.' But you can also use VR for a lot of good and that's kind of our final goal for the whole Vermont Peaks project: To show people, this is one of the fantastic uses it can really have."
Talk about the high definition photographs that go into the VR experience of Vermont Peaks.
"We're building this 'future-proof' so the images that we're taking are 16k. Your TV only displays 4K, if you're lucky."
Glover says while some higher-end VR headsets can run $600, Immersive Technology wants to create an experience that is accessible and affordable and provides its Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign backers a VR headset that is $25. And as technology changes and improves and prices for VR headsets dip, Glover says the high-definition images taken for the Vermont Peaks project make the experience 'future-proof' and will continue provide crisp, clear and lifelike panoramic images of the view from atop Vermont's beautiful mountains.