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March 7, 2017

Google, Patagonia team to save Bears Ears region with new VR video series

by John_A

Why it matters to you

Bears Ears is one of the most breathtaking regions of the U.S., and now, Google and Patagonia are working together to protect it.

Patagonia has long been in the business of helping you get outside with its outdoor gear, and with its virtual reality technology, Google has gotten pretty good at making you feel like you’re outside, even when you’re inside. Now, the two companies are teaming up to help save a portion of the out-of-doors. It comes in the form of a new website titled This is Bears Ears, and it highlights — you guessed it — the Bears Ears region in southeastern Utah.

The two mesas for which Bears Ears is named are known not only for their breathtaking natural beauty, but also for their importance to five Native American tribes, not to mention their 100,000 or so archaeological sites. The area was recently designated a national monument, but even this federal honor may not protect it. There’s now talk of drilling and mining in the area, which could harm the landscape and all it stands for. But Patagonia and Google are hoping to stop that from happening, and you might be able to help.

More: Check out the White House and Air Force One in VR via Google Arts & Culture

Via a series of interactive, VR short films, you can see Bears Ears for yourself. The first section of the website invites viewers to learn about the culture of the space, which is “written in rocks and sandstone walls.” Six additional films explore the history of Bears Ears, along with cave paintings, dwellings, and other natural ruins. Or you can check out the sport of the region, trail riding, backpacking, and otherwise virtually experiencing the natural wonders of the area.

And finally, when you’ve seen it all, Google and Patagonia urge you to get in touch with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, and tell him to “keep our public lands in public hands and defend Bears Ears National Monument.”

To ensure that as many people as possible are able to experience Bears Ears, each of the 10 videos on the site (as well as the site itself) is optimized for mobile, headphones and VR headsets. The site works on your phone, on a tablet, and certainly via a VR headset. “[The VR technology] highlights the specialness of these areas,” Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario said in an interview with Mashable. “I think it also gives people a sense of the grandeur and the beauty of these lands, and hopefully gets them to love them as much as we do — and as I know the people of Utah do — and will want to protect them.”

You can check out the full site here, and hey, maybe you’ll even be inspired to take a real-life trip to Bears Ears to see everything for yourself.

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