Experience Virtual Everest From Your PC Or Smartphone
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Exactly 60 years after Sir Edmund Hillary reached the summit of Mount Everest, Microsoft has unveiled “Everest: Rivers of Ice,” a website designed to virtually bring Earth´s highest peak to laptops and touch screens around the world.
Using high-resolution video and photographic panorama content to display the Greater Himalaya region, Rivers of Ice is the result of a collaboration between the Internet Explorer 10 team and GlacierWorks, a non-profit organization founded by renowned mountaineer David Breashears, that “illustrates changes to Himalayan glaciers through art, science, and adventure,” according to the group´s official Twitter profile.
The website´s designers pulled images from Breashears´ collection of high-resolution photos and videos that he captured while scaling Everest, some of which have never been released to the public. While it was created using HTML5 and CSS3 for touch screens, the site is optimized for Internet Explorer 10 but functions normally in conjunction with Firefox and Chrome.
“We´ve taken David´s great imagery, converted it into website code, and then the Panorama Viewer gives us the ability to pinch and zoom and get into incredible detail,” Internet Explorer director Roger Capriati, told Discovery News.
He added, “the site feels like it´s an app. You have to remind yourself it´s a website and not an application by pulling up the address bar.”
After a brief introductory video, the website opens up a map displaying the first leg of the conventional route up Everest. The website allows users to zoom in on sweeping high-resolution vistas to reveal hidden “Easter eggs,” like video clips of local streets or the plateau-top market at Namche Bazaar.
“We´re very excited about this,” Capriati said. “The goal of the site was to spur a new generation of explorers and learners to experience Everest, to ask questions about global change and spark a conversation about what´s happening on our planet.”
Besides viewing the mountainous vistas and modern culture of the region´s residents, the website also contains historical photographs that allow viewers to compare the size and scope of the glaciers as they once were. Breashears said he hopes scientists will add to the project with their own research.
“We´ve already had a lot of interest from students and graduate students in glaciology or geology, higher-altitude physiology, many fields, who want to be a part of the project, to add to the science, and who want to bring their own material to it,” he told Discovery. “I guess you´d call it user-generated content. Because they´re in the field, and they are funded to be in the field.”
A growing body of evidence continues to show the retreat of glaciers in the Greater Himalayan region. The loss of these massive ice sheets could have a huge impact, as approximately 2.3 billion people get their water from glacial run-off, according to Breashears.
The mountaineer said an encounter with Sir Edmund Hillary during his first ascent up Everest in 1983 inspired him to pursue conservation efforts in this remote corner of the world.
“He very kindly said to me after maybe an hour, ℠David, someday you´ll learn to turn your eyes from the summit and look into the valleys,´” Breashears recalled 30 years later.