You can now race up the UK’s tallest mountain in virtual reality

Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK, has been recreated in virtual reality to allow players to race to its summit with ease.

Created using precise map data at a 1:4 scale, the virtual mountain is designed as a simple VR tour for users on iOS or Android with Google Cardboard, and as a game when used with Oculus Rift.

In the game version, players compete to get to a hidden triangulation station – also known as a trig pillar – on the summit.

The game was created by Ordnance Survey (OS), the UK’s 224 year-old mapping agency, in order to showcase how its data can be used. It follows a previous project by OS, which saw the organisation recreate the UK in Minecraft.

“As with the Minecraft maps of Great Britain, we thought the public would be interested in how our data can work in the virtual world, which is why we’ve shared these Oculus and cardboard experiments,” said John Abbott, head of Access and Services, as well as OS Labs.

Images courtesy of Ordnance Survey

Images courtesy of Ordnance Survey

“My team continues the long OS tradition of constantly examining the data that’s available and its uses in emerging technologies. We do this to see how we can make our data offerings work better for the public, government, business and partners.”

OS doesn’t plan to make any further VR visualisations, but hopes that the project will encourage others to make use of its data in this space.

”OS has no plans at present to create further virtual worlds, but what we have demonstrated is that it can be done, and in terms of future uses it is the perfect medium for visualisation,” said Abbott.

“It can be used for planning, as a test environment for running scenarios. Put real-world data into the virtual world and you gain a level of experience and understanding of an environment that can only be bettered by actually being there.”

The project was remarkably quick to make – taking only two days to put both the Cardboard and Rift versions together, and the OS Labs developers believe there is considerable potential for the use of OS data in VR.

“I’ve been looking into VR for a while now. There’s a natural crossover with my work in 3D mapping. I’ve no doubt the cardboard and especially the Oculus will quickly establish themselves as important in how we consume entertainment,”  said David Haynes, a specialist in VR and 3D mapping.

“We used Unity 3D, a well-known and easy-to-use gaming engine, and it took us a while to figure out how to get it to work with and display the data as realistically as possible,” added iBeacon expert Alex Davies-Moore.

“The more we play with this technology and experiment with putting real world data into it, the more realistic these worlds will become, and so the number of commercial end uses increases.”

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