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National Geographic Takes Users to Mt. Everest in New Instagram AR Experience

National Geographic launched an interactive augmented reality experience that takes Instagram users on an expedition to Mt. Everest.


National Geographic has debuted its second augmented reality experience on Instagram. It takes you on an immersive journey up Mt. Everest, along with the National Geographic and Rolex Perpetual Planet Everest Expedition. Moreover, it puts users in full climbing gear.

The interactive experience enables people to indulge their wanderlust at home as countries worldwide continue to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Climb the World’s Highest Mountain in AR

We asked National Geographic why they selected AR as the medium for sharing the groundbreaking expedition to Mt. Everest.

National Geographic Mt. Everest AR experience“We strongly believe that immersive storytelling is one of the best ways to engage audiences in complex storytelling, especially our younger viewers. AR has been on the horizon for quite some time but only now has become accessible to the masses with the Spark AR platform which exists within Instagram so it doesn’t require any additional hardware or software,” they answered in a statement.

As you launch the AR interactive, your journey begins near the base of the mountain. You can move your smartphone or swipe your screen to see 360-degree panoramic views of your surroundings. In addition, you can open your mouth to see your breath in AR.

Unlike some AR apps that only focus on transforming the user’s face, National Geographic lets you see a full-bodied Everest climber. They even made it responsive to your face and head movements. To make the experience more realistic, the filter intensifies as your climb higher up the mountain. For example, the weather visibly changes as you move to different locations. Your climbing gear changes as well when you reach higher elevations. At some point, you’ll find yourself in goggles and a breathing apparatus.

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Around 1,400 feet below the summit, you’ll see scientists installing one of five high-altitude weather stations. You’ll also see them collecting ice cores.

Once you reach the summit, you can take selfies or record videos to share on your IG stories. You may also flip the camera around to enjoy panoramic views of the mountain.

The Most Comprehensive Scientific Expedition in Augmented Reality

Aside from satiating people’s wanderlust, the immersive experience also educates users about the National Geographic and Rolex Perpetual Planet Everest Expedition. It is, by far, the most extensive scientific excursion up the world’s highest mountain.

The team climbed Mt. Everest last year to set up five high-altitude weather stations. These transmit critical information on weather conditions in real-time. They also collected ice cores in the hope of gaining a better understanding of the effects of climate change in extreme elevations. During the climb, the team took 360-degree videos of the mountain, which now enable you to climb it in AR.

National Geographic details the expedition in the magazine’s July issue. But to engage and inform a younger crowd, they turned it into a fully immersive AR experience.

For over six decades and counting, National Geographic has partnered with Rolex to perform groundbreaking scientific expeditions. Together, they’ve deployed innovative technologies that help researchers better understand our planet.

What’s Next for National Geographic?

“Our focus is on pushing what people expect from AR filters which have traditionally been used for face filters,” National Geographic said in response when asked about future AR endeavors.

The new Mt. Everest AR experience is National Geographic’s second immersive content on Instagram. In April, they launched their first AR experience for Earth Day. They used a data visualization approach for their first AR piece to highlight how temperatures around the world can potentially change by 2050. Meanwhile, they used face filters and 360° videos to make the latest one responsive and fully immersive.

“This last concept is one we would like to double down on, manipulating the world around the user rather than the look of the users themselves.”

Using your smartphone, you can now access the augmented reality experience by clicking here.

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Gergana Mileva
the authorGergana Mileva
Based in Prague, CZ, Geri is a freelance journalist and writer, focusing on technology, finance, and marketing. If you have a story suggestion for Geri, you may contact her here.