Cycling the world with VR

One of the things that’s easiest to appreciate about a cycling habit is that it can get you out into the world. Most of the time that means biking the roads and trails in close proximity to your home, but avid cyclists sometimes take it several steps further, and ultimately use the hobby to see some of the most beautiful and adventurous places on Earth. There aren’t very many places you can’t see without cycling. But from the winding roads of Britain’s Cotswolds region, to the coast of Zanzibar, to the China-Pakistan Karakoram Highway, there are places all over the world that are best seen on the back of a bike. That sort of thinking can get you daydreaming quite quickly, even if you don’t habitually ride a bike. Indeed, it’s a nice thought, to pedal along beautiful roads in far-flung places without a care in the world. Realistically though, is this something you’re likely to do in the near future if you’re not already in the habit? Is the Karakoram Highway, for example. really accessible to you? 

Those questions aren’t meant to dissuade you from planning trips like these. If you’re interested and have the ability to do it, even one cycling excursion like these can be almost life-changing in how thoroughly it awes you. The idea I’m getting at here though is whether or not you get the chance to actually take adventurous cycling trips in the future, you might just appreciate a more convenient way of making it happen, or at least of simulating the experience. Virtual reality is beginning to turn this exact idea into a reality.

It’s not an application that’s particularly visible in the VR market just yet, but we can take a hint, so to speak, from VR’s growing capacity to step aside from fantasy and instead help us to visualise real places and situations. In a gaming-adjacent capacity, it’s helping to do this in casino entertainment, where it’s been written fairly recently that VR is adding a new dimension to the whole concept. In part this is through virtual reality bringing artificial gaming environments, such as digital slot animations, to life, which is more in the fantasy vein. However, VR is also showing the potential to put online casino players in ‘real’ casinos via simulated reality. 

Where would you go?

Moving even further from gaming, the travel industry is also beginning to combine VR with real places, to rather amazing (yet honestly quite simple) effect. Purposes for this application vary greatly, from pure interest and education to travel booking, but the idea is for participating users to transport themselves to places all around the globe without ever leaving home.  You could tour the Louvre if you’ve always wanted to go, or you could explore the streets around a hotel in Sydney you’re considering staying at. In theory, the sky’s the limit! 

The potential at hand is for cycling to more or less combine these concepts, linking a game-like application (in this case, cycling at home with a virtual component) to the travel concept; pedalling along on your own bike at home, you can get the sensation of moving along some of the famous routes and roads referred to above. Early drafts, of this kind of application have already been made using Google StreetView, but it’s clear that it won’t be long before a more sophisticated take on the idea takes root. 

None of this is meant to provide a reason not to travel and see the world’s best cycling routes. The real world, for me, will always beat the virtual one. If you had the chance to see the world on your bike without leaving your house though, wouldn’t you enjoy it?


*Thank you to cyclevr.com for this collaboration

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