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An interactive journey taking you deep into one of Australia's most ancient slot canyons. Viewable on computers, and the Oculus Rift.

[UPDATE: I have just released an Oculus demo of the Hawaii canyon, allowing people with an Oculus Rift to get a taste of the amazing experience I wish to create]

[UPDATE: I'll be allowing contributors to view the Claustral Canyon experience using Oculus Rift technology! It's the latest and most cutting edge virtual reality headset.]

Australia’s Claustral Canyon is an ancient and astounding environment that few have ever experienced—until now.

Carrying the latest in 3D laser scanners, I will abseil down Claustral’s three sheer waterfalls to the base of the slot canyon, where little has changed since primeval times. There, I will take a complete three- dimensional scan of the canyon.

The result: a breathtakingly unique 3D adventure suitable for use in games and virtual reality; education; and at-home exploration for those who might otherwise never be able to experience this incredible canyon.

[UPDATE: Claustral Canyon narrowly escaped a massive fire. With the climate heating up, this canyon may soon be irrevocably damaged by fire or environmental pressures. Time is running out to document this unique ecosystem.]

I already have the scanner and have created the demo videos below from my work in Hawaii and New York State. For this project, I’m asking the bare minimum needed to create this interactive experience.

Where would you go if you had complete freedom to explore one of the most beautiful places in the world?

To deliver this spectacular experience, I'll be traveling to one of the deepest and most beautiful canyons in Australia, Claustral Canyon, in February 2014. Cutting-edge 3D laser scanning technology brought into the canyon will be used to create an interactive 3D experience unlike any other.

You will be able to actively explore the canyon on your computer as if you were really there.

With your contribution, you will get to experience the grandeur of Claustral Canyon and really feel what it's like being 200 feet below the Earth in one of the most primeval and beautiful slot canyons in the world.

The 3D experience of the Canyon DOES NOT require you to wear those uncomfortable chunky glasses you get at the movies. The laser scanning technology used in Claustral creates a point-for-point 3D replica of the entire environment that you can view from your computer. That means the experience allows you the same freedom of movement you get when playing a video game. 

This is never-before-experienced 3D technology like no other and we need your help to make it happen!

Humans are meant to explore. That means you should be able to go ANYWHERE you want. Regular film and video just doesn’t allow this - you are always at the mercy of where the camera wants to go. 

There is simply nothing out there that will get you closer to really feeling what it's like being in this extraordinary place as the experience I am offering. 

All the hard work of getting into the canyon will be done for you, so you can experience it all from the comfort of your computer.

Your level of contribution will determine how real your experience will be.

The more you contribute, the more real the experience gets. The most basic version consists of low-density points, while the most complete experience includes visually captivating photographs and video, as well as control over water level and weather.

Your contribution will make you part of an incredible adventure.

You will explore the canyon and be able to go ANYWHERE. You can explore, walk, or fly through the canyon using your computer mouse and keys. Color photographs are combined with the 3D scanned data, resulting in a magical and extraordinary 3D model of the environment. You will also have control over the water level and weather conditions, allowing you to create your own "living movie" of Claustral Canyon.

Everyone who contributes will receive an incredible experience, but the more you contribute, the greater your experience will be.

Basic Experience – Low Density Points
Basic Experience – Low Density Points
Complete Experience – Immersive 3D Incorporating Real Photos
Complete Experience – Immersive 3D Incorporating Real Photos

It's so easy to get started! All you need is a modern computer less than 2 or 3 years old (Windows, Mac) with a decent video card.

DVD Alternative

Alternatively, contributors over $50 can get a DVD of different experiences of the canyon instead of the computer interactive experience. This is a great option for those less comfortable with computers or who'd just prefer to sit back to view the experience from their TV. (Of course, it'll only be a DVD and you won't have to freedom to go anywhere you want!)

Claustral Canyon – A place like no other on this planet.

This image of Claustral Canyon took my breath away when I first saw it on the front page of The National Geographic in 2011.

Front cover of National Geographic
Front cover of National Geographic

Claustral Canyon is one of the world's most ancient and beautiful slot canyons. Being 50 million years old, it is ten times older than the Grand Canyon. There is no record of the Aboriginals ever having been there, which only adds to the mystery of the place. The canyon was only explored for the first time in the 1960s.

Being in the canyon is like nothing else on this earth - it's like being transported back in time to the Jurassic era. You feel small and insignificant compared to the giant ferns towering above you.

I visited the canyon in June 2013 to check out the canyon. The guides I will hire are experts in filming projects of this nature. Together we will jump and crawl like Spiderman, rappelling and carrying heavy equipment through waterfalls in waterproof backpacks.

Here I am, rappelling down the first of three descents into the Black Hole of Calcutta
Here I am, rappelling down the first of three descents into the Black Hole of Calcutta

We already have exclusive permission to scan Claustral Canyon!

In July I received permission from the National Parks of New South Wales to scan Claustral Canyon. Considering they have turned down many film companies trying to record inside the canyon, this is quite an achievement. While preservation is their greatest priority, they also realize the important need to educate the public about the existence of this beautiful but mysterious place.

Why I am applying to Kickstarter: the bigger picture

Mad Spelunker was founded in 2012 to envision the creation of larger-than-life 3D experiences on huge screens in hotels, museums, and galleries throughout the world. My aim is to create “living” images of magnificent places like Claustral Canyon that are constantly changing, and bring them into our everyday lives.

Waialeale Crater, Kauai, Hawaii
Waialeale Crater, Kauai, Hawaii

This project will allow you to navigate through these earthly paradises and set the picture to wander about as you please. One day you could wander in one direction; the next day, the other. The third day, you could fly along the top of the canyon looking down; the fourth day, along the bottom. The fifth day you could make it misty and raise the water level. You can literally define your own experience so it is uniquely yours. Combined with recorded natural sounds and video, you are free to make the experience as immersive and beautiful as any grandiose dream world you could imagine. Having tested the scanner in canyons and caves throughout Hawaii and New York State, I am convinced it is the right technology to create these life-altering experiences. 

Scanning in Waialeale Crater, Kauai, Hawaii
Scanning in Waialeale Crater, Kauai, Hawaii

For the first time ever, people who might otherwise be unable to visit these inaccessible places can visit these sacred places in the most immersive way possible and feel reconnected to our most precious planet Earth. With your help, these 3D experiences can be had by all.

I cannot make this immersive experience happen without your help.

This is a project on a massive scale: I am using the latest 3D laser scanning technology; I am hiring the most experienced and knowledgeable guides; and I am working in an extremely tough environment. To my knowledge nothing on this scale, with this technology, and in this environment, has been attempted before.

But surprisingly, the budget for this project is much cheaper than using regular film technology and a film crew: No special camera stabilization equipment is required to create a smooth ride through the canyon and there are no special rigs. All that’s needed is an awesome laser scanner, a great photographer, and yours truly. (And, of course, the Aussie canyoneering guides!)

The Budget

Two guides will be hired to help me carry the heavy laser scanning equipment into and out of the canyon over a 10-12 day period. Access to the canyon requires rappelling (aka abseiling) down three precipitous waterfalls known as the "Black Hole of Calcutta," which is like descending into a massive vortex in the center of the earth. The water in the canyon is ice cold, even in the summertime, and wetsuits and helmets must be worn at all times. You have to be in great shape to get into (and out of) the canyon.

A professional outdoor photographer will also join us to meticulously capture every square inch of the canyon in color photography. This important team member will also take videos of all waterfalls, which will be incorporated into the 3D experience.

Funds will also be used to pay for post-processing of the 3D data, in particular cleaning the geometry and mapping the color photographs and video.

Here’s the expense breakdown for this project:

$18,000: 10-12 days for 2 guides and 1 photographer

$6,000: Travel, accommodation, and food expenses

$1,000: Scanner insurance and transport

$12,000: Post-processing and modeling

My team of helpers on the Kauai trip, Danny and Dave (I'm in the middle!)
My team of helpers on the Kauai trip, Danny and Dave (I'm in the middle!)

Looking To The Future

My grandest vision is that Claustral Canyon is only the beginning of an extraordinary project to capture our planet’s most incredible places for all to experience in 3D. Here is a list of the SIX incredible places of extraordinary natural beauty I wish to scan:

1. Claustral Canyon, Australia

2. Son Doong Cave, Vietnam

3. Deer Cave, Borneo

4. Sinkhole Pools in Yucatan, Mexico

5. Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico, USA

6. Tongzi Cave System, China

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

Claustral Canyon

When I visited the canyon in June 2013, I made a careful assessment of how many 3D scans I would need to take and how many days would be required to film in the canyon. Of course, it is one thing to make a careful estimate and another to be there with the actual laser scanner.

In an environment like Claustral Canyon, flash floods and bad weather can cause delays and prevent entry into the canyon. So considerably more time than 12 days must be allowed in the event of unforeseen delay.

In addition, the team will need rest days. Claustral Canyon is a tremendously demanding experience both physically and psychologically. Once we have scanned the Black Hole of Calcutta, which is the most challenging part, we plan on camping in the canyon itself so we can progress smoothly with minimal disruptions.

So much care must be taken to keep everything dry because the scanner cannot get wet. That is why I am using the most expert canyoneering guides to help me carefully carry the equipment in and out of the canyon.

Software
The software technology I am developing uses 3D video game technology. You'll need a modern computer with a video card that is less than 2-3 years old to run the interactive experience. The software needs to detect the graphics capabilities and run a version that balances good performance with quality.

Most modern computers and laptops will do fine and the program is Windows and Mac compatible.

I have ten years of experience in 3D computer graphics (OpenGL), shaders, and balancing quality with performance.

FAQ

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  • Pledge $10 or more
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    31 backers

    A 3D interactive experience of low resolution points of Claustral Canyon. If you prefer, you can download a series of equivalent HD movies navigating through the canyon in different ways. You will be thanked in the end credits.

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    51 backers

    A 3D interactive experience of higher resolution points of Claustral Canyon. If you prefer, you can get a DVD of equivalent movies navigating through the canyon in different ways. You will be thanked in the end credits.

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  • Pledge $35 or more
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    30 backers

    A 3D interactive experience of the first half of Claustral Canyon only, with real photos (that includes the part where you abseil/rappel into the canyon). If you prefer, you can get a DVD of equivalent movies navigating through the canyon in different ways. You will be thanked in the end credits.

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    35 backers

    A 3D interactive experience of Claustral Canyon with real photos. If you prefer, you can get a DVD of equivalent movies navigating through the canyon in different ways. You will be thanked in the end credits.

    Estimated delivery:
    Add $10 USD to ship outside the US
  • Pledge $250 or more
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    19 backers

    BRONZE SPONSORSHIP LEVEL. A 3D interactive experience of Claustral Canyon with real photos, together with control over water level and weather. If you prefer, you can get a DVD of equivalent movies navigating through the canyon in different ways. You will also get an invitation to the launch party where a version of the full experience will be projected on to a large screen. You will be thanked in the end credits.

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  • Pledge $500 or more
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    5 backers

    SILVER SPONSORSHIP LEVEL. The full 3D interactive experience of Claustral Canyon (real photos, control over water level and weather, and videos of the waterfalls). If you prefer, you can get a DVD of equivalent movies navigating through the canyon in different ways. You will also get an invitation to the launch party where a version of the full experience will be projected on to a large screen. You will be thanked in the end credits.

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  • Pledge $1,000 or more
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    8 backers

    GOLD SPONSORSHIP LEVEL. The full 3D interactive experience of Claustral Canyon (real photos, control over water level and weather, and videos of the waterfalls). If you prefer you can get a DVD of equivalent movies navigating through the canyon in different ways. You will also get an invitation to the launch party where a version of the full experience will be projected on to a large screen. You will also get a framed poster of Claustral Canyon, signed by the photographer. You'll get "Producer" credit.

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Funding period

- (30 days)