Virtual reality lets visitors experience Table Rock summit


PICKENS, S.C. (AP) — A virtual reality project is letting people experience a tough hike at a South Carolina state park in a matter of minutes and without taking a step.

Many people aren’t able to make the strenuous 3.6-mile trek that climbs 2,000 feet to the top of Table Rock Mountain because of mobility or health restrictions, State Park Service Director Paul McCormick told The Post and Courier. The five-minute virtual reality experience, the first of its kind for the state’s parks, lets them take it in from a chair in the visitor center.

They can see the waterfall at Carrick Creek, a shelter marking the halfway point, as well as the views from Governor’s Rock and the top of the mountain.

McCormack said the reactions from the roughly 40 people who tried it after it was unveiled Wednesday were “overwhelmingly positive.”

The project was prompted by a donation in memory of Tom Presnell made to Table Rock State Park. Presnell was a Greenville County native who often made the hike up the mountain. He was also a friend of longtime parks director Phil Gaines and a former artist-in-residence for the park service, McCormack said.

BMW, which has an assembly plant in the area, provided the rest of the funding.

It took about 15 hours to shoot the film with a spherical camera that includes six individual cameras capturing footage at the same time, said Ryan Clark with marketing agency BFG, which produced it with the park service.

The resulting virtual reality experience allows viewers to feel like they are actually in the place. For example, the newspaper reported, a person using a virtual reality headset to view the Table Rock footage could look up and see the tree canopy as if they were on the trail.

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