Eau Claire bike trails soon to be in a virtual world

One man plans to capture 360-degree video of the city’s bike trails


Photo by Andee Erickson

Jonathan Leuthe of SpinVision wears a headset he created that transforms a 360 degree video on his iPhone into a virtual viewing experience.

Jonathan Leuthe said he pulled about 150 pounds worth of equipment behind his tricycle when biking to capture video footage of a core section of the Eau Claire bike trail system.

Leuthe is the founder and owner of SpinVision – a company that takes and shares 360-degree photographs to provide free virtual tours of real estate and businesses to everyone.

The latest SpinVision project has Leuthe pulling an eight-foot rig with a camera system on top that captures video of the Chippewa Valley bike trails.

Anyone will be able to watch the video footage on a newer Android smartphone or iPhone (4 and up.)

Users can purchase a headset to put their smartphone in, which creates a split screen to provide a virtual reality experience, Leuthe said. They can also do without and watch the video on their smartphone by moving the phone in the direction they want to look.

Leuthe said he thinks in a few years every household will have virtual reality components.

Though the project is just getting started and will take a few years to complete, Leuthe said by the end he wants to provide an interactive experience in order help people explore what the community has to offer along the trails.

“We have a lot of parks and businesses people don’t know about,” Leuthe said.

After building his prototype tricycle and the camera tower behind it, Leuthe rode the trails from the north side of Eau Claire to the southwest for the first outing.

Leuthe said to minimize the disruption bumps from the trail that would show up in the video, he had to let air out of the tires.

“It’s like driving through syrup,” Leuthe said.

In order to maintain a smooth and fluid motion for the video, Leuthe said he also didn’t allow himself to stop for breaks until his legs seized up and forced him to stop.

“I was so excited to get on the trail I didn’t bring snacks or water,” Leuthe said.

Leuthe said his love for utilizing the trail system as a way to navigate around time inspired the project.

“You can get through Eau Claire almost as fast on a bike as you can driving, sometimes faster,” Leuthe said. “It’s like a hidden part of the city.”

Leuthe said the project was an opportunity for him to expand his business.

“Now that I had a website for touring Eau Claire it was such a natural fit that you can go to tour Eau Claire and view the bike trails,” Leuthe said.

Leuthe said he has been building his business on a principle he learned from author and businessman, Zig Ziglar – to be successful, help as many people as possible.

Before Leuthe started making plans to capture video of the Chippewa Valley bike trails, he launched the website Tour Eau Claire less than a year ago.

The website is an interactive map of the city that includes virtual tours of restaurants, businesses, outdoor destinations, retail stores and lodging centers using a 360-degree photograph.

“If I can help every business share at least one image in 360 with anybody at no cost I’m helping people find their business,” Leuthe said. “I’m helping those businesses reach new people.”

Leuthe said his goal is to eventually provide video of the trail in all seasons and plans to get back on the tricycle this winter to shoot new sections of the trail.