“ [The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks] opens up some of
the country’s most spectacular wonders to everyone. ”

- Smithsonian Magazine

America's National Parks belong to everyone. However, most of us aren’t able to experience these incredible places firsthand. For the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service, we wanted to use Google technology to change that, making five of the most unique - and remote - parks in the system accessible to anyone with a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. 

We enlisted park rangers as our guides. Together, we invited everyone to explore The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks. With their expertise and our technology, we took users on incredible adventures you won’t find on any map.

To launch the project, we leveraged Instagram influencers, Google social channels, the Google homepage, and even Pegman himself. And this year, we’re taking 1700 kids on their first ever field trip to a national park because nothing beats seeing these amazing places with your own eyes.

 
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THE EXPERIENCE

Using the most cutting edge Virtual Reality gear available - sometimes building it ourselves - we asked visitors to follow rangers on an immersive adventure through five National Parks. Rappel into a crevasse, fly with thousands of bats, soar over an active volcano, dive through shipwrecks, and experience the Milky Way in 360° video and ambisonic audio. 

 
 

Users could also interact with their environments to learn how the bats of Carlsbad navigate using sonar, or see the effect of climate change on glaciers in Kenai Fjords. To launch the project, we leveraged Instagram influencers, Google social channels, the Google homepage, and even Pegman himself.

 

THE VR FILM / CUSTOM CARDBOARD

We developed a campaign narrative "We went there, so you can too" — weaving it into several promo films. Take an adventure through the 5 featured parks in a 4 minute VR film available on YouTube. We donated cardboard units to educational programs all over the country to give kids access to the parks like they've never had. To date, we've distributed over 5,000 National Parks Cardboards.

 
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GOOGLE PRODUCT INTEGRATION

We even took over Google products for the Centennial with partnerships like a custom Pegman in Google Maps, content and information on Google Arts & Culture, a feature on Google Trends, and promos on Search and YouTube.

 

SOCIAL

Our social campaign included video, VR and static assets. For example, Google Maps' Pegman "went there" in his ranger-inspired costume and gave viewers a glimpse of the adventures they could look forward to seeing on the site. 

 
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NEW YORK TIMES TAKEOVER / NYT VR APP SPOTLIGHT

We placed the VR trailer in a New York Times 30 day takeover that included innovative, new 360˚ units on the homepage of the site. The VR film was also featured in the award-winning NYT VR app.

 
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5 DAYS / 5 PARKS INFLUENCER CAMPAIGN

Our immensely successful influencer campaign sent photographers to our five parks to give their followers access into the Hidden Worlds from a personal perspective. We produced over 6.7m social impressions from the amazing photography; like these from Travis Burke.

 

NATIONAL PARKS EVENTS

Families at Google Science Fair and the National Parks Service Centennial Celebration in DC were able grab a cardboard and experience the VR film.

 

CARDBOARD-COMPATIBLE
VR BINOCULARS

Cardboard "Coin-operated" Binoculars cleverly became tools to demo the VR experience.

 
 
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"To mark its centennial, the National Park Service is getting a 21st-century upgrade: Google. The search giant is launching a project to make the parks more accessible to more people by bringing as much of their experience online as possible."

 

That’s one reason why I’m so optimistic about the future: the constant churn of scientific progress. Think about the changes we’ve seen just during my presidency. When I came into office, I broke new ground by pecking away at a Black­Berry. Today I read my briefings on an iPad and explore national parks through a virtual-­reality headset.

 
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"Instead of featuring much-documented vistas like Yosemite or the Grand Canyon, for example, the exhibit instead focuses on a selection of parks you may not have traveled to yet (or may never see)"

 
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"If you can’t visit the parks in person this year, this free offering from Google is a perfect alternative." 

 

"In combining organic and electronic sounds, Smith’s aim was to make listeners “feel like they were in a lush, outdoor environment."