Skydive Abel Tasman

The Reality of Skydiving Goes Virtual on Google

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Google Street View may have changed the whole reality of how people experience skydiving!

Some people’s greatest dream is to step out of an airplane a couple of miles up in the air and experience the remarkable thrill of flight through skydiving. Others might say that skydiving seems like their worst nightmare.

Ever since the earliest people first looked up into the sky and wished they could soar like the birds, humans have been trying to emulate flight. Did you know that the earliest human “flights” actually took place in the 1100s, according to The History of Skydiving? That’s when Chinese would cobble together parachutes from materials at hand and jump from cliffs or rock outcroppings to float back to the ground!

The history of man’s attempts to conquer the air continued, from Leonardo DaVinci drawing the first parachute blueprints in 1485, to 1797 when a Frenchman’s successful parachute jumps were believed to have been the real beginning of skydiving. After World War II, skydiving became much more popular when returning soldiers started having jumping competitions. Skydiving is considered to have become a national sport in 1952.

Despite the growing popularity of skydiving and the many people who’ve wanted to try jumping but decided against it for various reasons, there was only one way to experience a skydiving adventure — and that was to actually jump out of a plane!

“You can take skydiving lessons, study aerodynamics, learn how to fold a parachute, and enter an airplane. You can put on a helmet and a parachute and stand at the door, but you still won’t know what skydiving is like. There comes a point when you have to jump.” – Dwight Longenecker, Adventures in Orthodoxy

Now, thanks to Google Street View, Dwight Longenecker’s quote is no longer entirely true! A Google Street View certified photographer, Alex Mather, partnered with the New Zealand skydive company Skydive Abel Tasman to develop a ground-breaking — or perhaps an air-shattering — virtual skydiving tour and associated video! They wanted viewers to be able to experience the sensation of skydiving over New Zealand’s Abel Tasman National Park. Watching from the comfort of the your on-ground location, you can experience a tandem skydive almost as if you were stepping out of the plane yourself.

The Google Street View virtual skydiving tour begins on the ground, suited up in harnesses and boarding the plane, and takes you all the way down to landing.

In the associated six-minute-long, virtual skydiving video, if you prefer to watch that, you begin in the plane, hearing the engines and the wind whistling from inside the plane, looking down at a tremendous landscape. Then you’re with the skydivers as they release their hold on the plane and plummet into a 125-mile-per-hour freefall.

The wind whistles in your ears as you fall closer to earth, then the chute is deployed! With the freefall ended, now it’s as if you’re soaring above the earth, seeing the wash of the ocean on one side and the tremendous variation in colors of the ground below you. Then buildings start to become more evident and in the distance you see the deep blue mountain ranges.

Closer and closer to the ground you fly, the wind still roaring in your ears, and the vista you’re viewing become ever more defined. Then you’re approaching the ground and finally landing gently as the ground crew comes to assist with the parachute. As you finish unharnessing the chute, you look up into the remarkably blue sky to see another skydiver floating in for a landing.

Created over five days, the virtual reality skydiving video was made using a number of 360-degree video cameras, a skydiver, and numerous Google Street View photographs that had been taken at different points of a skydive.

In recent years, as skydiving has become safer and technology more advanced, more people try skydiving. The United States Parachute Association (USPA) estimated that in 2015, about 3.5 million jumps were made in the U.S. alone!

People offer a variety of reasons for wanting to skydive, ranging from experiencing an adrenaline rush like no other, to overcome a personal fear such as a fear of heights, to making friends and family jealous, to wanting to do something entirely new and different — even to just taking up a friend on a dare!

For many who do want to experience skydiving, however, there are as many reasons that they aren’t able to jump out of a plane. These reasons can range from an unconquerable fear of heights or flying to lack of time and money to medical issues that prevent them from skydiving. Up until now, those people had no other options.

Google Street View’s virtual reality tour and video now provide an alternative! Those who can’t enjoy a real-life skydive adventure can at least check off that they’ve experienced a virtual jump. And perhaps the sensations and views in the virtual skydive will convince those who just haven’t found the time or have other excuses that they need to experience a real skydive!

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