What is a Virtual Tour?
A Virtual Tour is a tour of a business, hotel, tourism location or place that can be displayed on a computer, tablet or smartphone. The Virtual Tour is a simulation of an existing location. A Virtual Tour is created by a photographer or video depending on the type of virtual tour that was created.
Usually a photographer will take a sequence of images in 360° and then stitch these photographs together to create a 360° panorama image. This image is then uploaded into special software that allows a viewer to view the 360° image as if they were actually at the place where the image was taken.
The photographer can take multiple images of the location, these images can then be linked to each other, and a person viewing the virtual tour can then move from one spot to the next and tour the location. That is mainly why a Virtual Tour is called a Virtual Tour. You can tour the place in a digital environment as if you were physically at the location.
Recent developments in Virtual Reality Technology now also allows virtual tours to be created with video cameras. Instead of having still images, photographers can now use 360° camera systems to take 360° videos of the location. 360° videos create awesome virtual tours, since people can be guided through the location by a narrator or view events taking place at the location in video.
One of the awesome things about 360° video tours is that one can film events taking place at the location. Let’s say there is a wedding at a hotel or lodge, one can film the event and people can see the event taking place just like they would have if it was a normal video. The main difference with 360° video is that you can now watch it in full 360 degrees.
Virtual Tours is super cool, because people can get a feeling of a place without being physically at the place. A Virtual Tour is better than a still photograph in the sense that you cannot hide anything in a 360° video, and it is something that people want to see when viewing for instance a hotel.
A Virtual Tour allow a person to walk from one place to the next, and see the location exactly as it is in real life.
The latest Virtual Tour technology allows for video, but also allow special effects like sound, surround sound, and 3d sound. These technologies can also be combined, so that you have still scenes “photographs” in the Virtual Tour with sound, or still virtual tours with animation, or still virtual tours with some video in it, like a monitor that has been photographed, and then a still video overlay onto the monitor, playing a video.
Virtual Tours can also be mixed with “Still Photographs” and “360° Video”.
Virtual Tours and Immersive Virtual Reality Headsets.
One of the latest trends in Virtual Reality and Virtual Tours is to combine virtual tours with virtual reality. For the past 10 years it was awesome to watch a virtual tour on a pc, but recently everything changed for the better. Virtual Reality headsets are now so affordable that you can get a Google Cardboard VR headset for between $15.00 and $30.00 allowing you watch the Virtual Tour on the VR Headset. This allows someone to be immersed inside the virtual tour, allowing them to see the place as if they were actually there. The Virtual Reality headset and the virtual tour photography/video combined with the VR Headset tricks the mind into believing that they are at the actual location where the virtual tour was taken. Things through the VR Headset looks as real as they are, people look like people “they are more or less the same size and height” through the headset as what they look like in real life.
The immersive virtual reality experience also allow viewers to see details of the place that they would have only seen when actually at the place where the Virtual Tour was taken.
The development of Virtual Reality, Virtual Tours and 360° video is one of the most trending technologies of 2016. Big companies like Google, Facebook and Samsung are investing millions into the development of Virtual Reality and it is almost mainstream technology with millions of people already owning VR headsets.
Is virtual tours a mainstream technology?
Many people may not realise this yet, but Virtual Tours and Virtual Reality have been a mainstream technology since 2006 when Google created Google Street view. (But we will talk about Google Street View just now).
Virtual Tours can be viewed on any modern internet browser, like Internet Explorer, Microsoft edge, Firefox or Google Chrome. It can also be viewed on Apple, Android and Microsoft computers as well as tablets and smartphones.
YouTube and Facebook have also released a player for 360° video and virtual tours recently.
This basically means that anyone with a computer, tablet or smartphone can view a Virtual Tour.
Google Street View the biggest Virtual Reality Application in the world
Google started filming places and streets in 360° since 2006. Each of these millions of Google Street View images is a panorama image and together they form virtual tours of the streets in Google Maps.
- Street View had its origins in 2001 with The Stanford City Block Project, a Google-sponsored Stanford University research project. The project ended in June 2006, Google whom started Google Maps then started to include virtual tours into their maps. This was called Google Street View, and users of Google Maps could click on the yellow pin man to view 360° imagery inside Google Maps.
- They officially launched Google Street view in the United States on the 25th of May 2007 combined with Google Maps the virtual tours allowed for people to see the streets in the USA as if they were there.
- Also see How Virtual Tours can benefit your business
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