Expedition Africa VR Safari at The North Carolina Zoo
Looking Glass Virtual Reality Services is proud to be a part of Expedition Africa VR Safari coming to the North Carolina Zoo in the summer of 2019! The VR Safari will enhance patron enjoyment of one of NC’s top tourist destinations.
The North Carolina Zoo is the largest natural habitat zoo in the world located in the heart of NC. Since its official opening in August of 1976, they have had a “free roam environment” allowing the animals to enjoy a degree of freedom while in captivity. Each habitat is designed to provide the animals with species appropriate expansive environments, combining natural elements with constructed features. This gives the animals an environment as close to what they would naturally experience, reducing behavior problems that can result from otherwise close confinement. The animal habitats not only include the open enclosures viewable by the public but also feature access to private dens for the animals to venture out of sight. This reduces stress for animals whose natural instinct is to avoid prolonged, intense observation.
For several of the larger animals – such as bison, elk, giraffe, zebra, and elephants – there are a number of habitats that cover acres of open plains for the animals to wander. These wide-ranging habitats have several observation areas scattered about the park for viewing, some equipped with coin-operated viewing binoculars. These viewing areas are designed to provide visitors with the best vantage points from which to get a look at these magnificent animals; however, even from these well-placed access points, visitors are not guaranteed a glimpse of the residents.
Virtual Reality Improves Visitors’ Experience
Virtual Reality technology has enabled access to immersive environmental exploration beyond video games. Virtual environments can be created to replicate locations with astonishing detail, providing clients and customers the oppotunity to view places remotely on demand. There is no need to worry about conflicting schedules to set up an appointment or staging arrangements. Many companies are incorporating virtual tours of everything; from hotels to college campuses.
Often these virtual tours are conducted via computer screen where the user navigates by manipulating the computer mouse and clicking to change perspective, zoom in or out, and move through the environment. These types of tours tend to rely on a fixed perspective panoramic viewing of the subject matter. The more advanced tours utilize VR equipment: including headsets, handheld controllers or gloves, allowing the user to navigate through body movement for a more dynamic exploration experience made possible with the use of omni-directional cameras during the creation phase of virtual tour development. This virtual tourism is a growing trend as more and more businesses are realizing the benefits.
So, Why Not a Virtual Safari?
Virtual Reality technology can be easily applied to reconstructing animal habitats. A VR Safari would provide zoo visitors the opportunity to see animals at any time of day, up close within their enclosures without causing any distress to the animal residents. This was the solution offered by Looking Glass to the NC Zoo resulting in the creation of The Expedition Africa VR Safari. With an expected cost of $3.00 per person, zoo patrons will be provided the use of a VR headset for a 360-viewing experience. The Safari will feature 13 exotic animals within their natural habitat. The Safari is anticipated to serve an estimated reach of 80,000 – 90,000 visitors per year beginning this summer.