Virtual Tourism … The Way of the Future ??

A local Brisbane/Qld newspaper (The Courier Mail) has been running a very interesting series of articles over the last couple of weeks entitled “Future Tourism”. The series of articles has been focused on a whole range of tourism events and activities planned for Queensland in the future, and highlight a wealth of growth potential for Qld Tourism.

Many of the traditional “favourite” tourist activities have been covered in the Future Tourism series :

  • Eco Tourism – “Green” friendly walks, treks, accommodation and experiences, particularly around the Scenic Rim and Moreton Bay
  • Outback Tourism – Highlighting all the amazing activities and events available throughout QLDs regional areas
  • Indigenous Tourism – an increased focus on Indigenous focused activities and tourism

However one area of tourism which has not yet been heavily explored, and which I believe is the “way of the future” is Virtual Tourism.

What is Virtual Tourism

Essentially “Virtual Tourism” describes a whole range of technologies which allow you to “experience” an activity, location or event, from the comfort of your own home (or mobile device).

The aim of Virtual Tourism is not so much to replace the actual experience of visiting a tourist destination or event, but to give you a “taste” of the experience – and encourage you to visit it in real life.

Saying that, for those that are, for whatever reason, not able to physically visit a tourism destination, (e.g. as a result of time, geographical, financial or physical constraints), Virtual Tourism may offer a serious alternative.

The types of technologies normally associated with Virtual Tourism are primarily 360° Photos/Videos and Virtual Tours… In a previous post entitled Using 360° Imagery and Virtual Tours to Promote Tourism we provide more information about the technology and a whole lot of examples.

These technologies can be experienced by using a Desktop, Mobile Device or even via a Virtual Reality Headset.

Virtual Tourism Benefits

There are many advantages that Virtual Tourism technologies have to offer over traditional marketing techniques :

  • Innovation – Virtual Tours still provide an impressive “wow” factor – particular when coupled with aerial imagery
  • Connectivity & Accessibility – Provide a “spatial awareness” which is not possible with most other forms of marketing. Virtual Tours can be used by anyone with internet access via a variety of devices (mobile, desktop, VR Headset)…
  • Experiential  & Interactive – Offer an “experience” based interface, where users get to Interact and actually participate.  The user gets to experience what they want, when and how they want to (rather than be forced along a predefined/guided journey) and this provides a level of emotional attachment not available through traditional media (photos and video)
  • Inspirational – Offer a “taste” of the experience and provide insights into what is on offer, which very often results in a “I want to see more” moment. 
  • Curated Content – A Virtual Tour provides a framework which can be used to present a wide variety of other content (Images, Galleries,. Video, Stories, Information, Links, etc…)
  • Recyclable – although custom 360° imagery may be required it is also possible to re-use existing assets by incorporating and referencing pre-existing content
  • Extendable – Virtual Tours can very easily be updated, modified and improved to update, add or remove activities and experiences

See naturalbridge.panoview.com.au for Full Screen version

Virtual Tourism for Your Tourism Business

If you’d like to find out more about how Virtual Tourism could be used to promote your Travel Destination, Events or Activities, please give Andy a call on 0403 023 223 … or Contact Us.

Hervey Bay Esplanade – A Virtual Tour

My dad has lived in Hervey Bay for more than 20 years, so I manage to get to “visit” several times a year and feel fairly connected to the area. One of the things I Love about Hervey Bay is “The Esplanade” – a 16km stretch of road along the waterfront, Gatakers Bay in the north-west to Urangan Boat Harbour in the south-east – with plenty of Parks, Piers, Cafes and Restaurants in between and spanning the ‘suburbs’ of Urangan, Shelly Beach, Torquay, Scarness, Pialba and Point Vernon.

I decided that a Virtual Tour – incorporating Aerial 360° panoramas as well as traditional panospheres, would be an ideal way to showcase The Esplanade – as well as showing some of the amazing capabilities a Standalone Virtual Tour has to offer the Tourism Industry.

On a recent (Easter 2019) visit, I did a series of photoshoots, and despite the weather not being ideal (windy and sporadic showers), over a few days, I managed to get enough decent photos to create the following virtual tour.

See esplanade.panoview.com.au for Full Screen version

This tour is not yet complete (there are a number of extra aerial panospheres I would like to do) and includes some photos taken on overcast days (which should probably be re-shot in beautiful sunny conditions), but it does, I think, provide an interesting, innovative, interactive and unique insight into the Hervey Bay Esplanade and what it has to offer.

Curiocity Brisbane – Interactive Virtual Tour

Curiocity Brisbane – a series of science, art and technology “experiences” spanning the Brisbane River will be on display for 20 days (15 March to 3rd April 2019).

One-of-a-kind installations, pop-ups and interactive spaces crafted by local and international artists, technicians and makers will be available for everyone to explore.

From New Farm Park, under the Story Bridge, right through to Brisbane’s South Bank, 16 different experiences will be operating.

The theme of this event is for a fully immersive, sensory experience for everyone, and how better can this be achieved than through an interactive Virtual Tour ??

An Unofficial Virtual Tour

Despite the obvious synchronicity between a Virtual Tour and the Curiocity Brisbane event, a Virtual Tour was not unfortunately offered (or even considered ??) as one of the ways Curiocity Brisbane could be experienced. I have therefore taken it upon myself to create and publish my own virtual tour – making these experiences available, not just in Brisbane, but also throughout, Queensland, Australia and the whole world (without actually having to visit the Brisbane CBD at all).

This is also an awesome project to showcase some of the more sophisticated capabilities of a Standalone Virtual Tour.

Here is the current version of my Curiocity Brisbane Virtual Tour

See curiocity.panoview.com.au for Full Screen version

Work in Progress

Note: this virtual tour could obviously only be photographed and therefore created once the individual installations were in place (which didn’t actually happen until after 15 March)… to add to the problems the first few days of the event were very wet and stormy (raindrops and fisheye lenses just don’t play nicely together), so this Tour is a Work In Progress… here is a brief update of the process/progress :

  • 14 March – Wet and Overcast – visited Story Bridge sites (Astronauts, Da Vinci’s Dream, Moon Drops) – installations still under construction. Visited Howard Smith Wharf (Something Fishy) – photographed and shot an Aerial 360
  • 15 March – Wet and Overcast – photographed Panospheres for Astronauts, Da Vinci’s Dream, Moon Drops, SuperNova. Too wet for Aerial Panos
  • 16- 18 March – Processed Panos, used some existing Aerial 360s and published 1st draft to curiocity.panoview.com.au
  • 19 March – 1st Sunny day for a week 🙂 – Photographed Panos for Fibonacci Spiral, Scatter (also recorded audio), Dynamo, Shadowgram, Tag It, Sky Brisbane, 2 x Aerial 360s for South Bank, and various Aerial Videos
  • 20 March – Contacted the Curiocity team to let them know what I was doing with the Virtual Tour to see if they may be interested in using it in some way to promote the Curiocity Brisbane event.
  • 21 March – heard back from a 3rd party Marketing Agency (apparently associated with Curiocity Brisbane marketing). They don’t seem interested in using the Virtual Tour, and actually requested (very nicely) that I remove Curiocity branding, Logos and references from it (which I will do in the next release). An unexpected response … seems they are more interested in “protecting” the brand then they are in promoting the event 🙂
  • 22 March – Version 2 published. This version includes :
    • Panospheres for Fibonacci Spiral, Dynamo, Scatter, Shadowgram, Tag It & Sky Brisbane
    • Updated Aerial and (sunny day) panospheres for Da Vincis’ Dream, Moon Drops and Astronauts
    • Added Splash Screen, with instructions
    • Improved and extended Menu (for mobile)
    • Removed Curiocity Branding and Links
  • 22 March – Re-shot Something Fishy (sunny) and HS Wharves Aerial. Shot Wave Opus IV (No audio because it was not working). Republished VT with Direct Node Access (can now link via URL to any node) and also added Event Tracking to provide analytics.
  • 26 March – New version uploaded – Added Waves Opus IV, Added some Night panospheres (and ability to switch between day/night for certain modes) – Added Something Fishy (Night), Waves Opus IV (night) and added Audio to Scatter
  • 30 March – New version uploaded – Changed Starting Point (to Sunny Story Bridge & Brisbane Cityscape), Changed Navigation Icons (Added Home Icon, Added Menu to top left, Moved Map Icon to bottom left), Added popup Video to Davinci’s Dream (see below).

If you’d like to find out how a Virtual Tour could be crafted
to showcase your event, please give Andy a call
on 0403 023 223 or Contact Us

Virtual Tours for Retirement Villages

With Australia’s aging population, it is unsurprising that Aged Care is a rapidly growing industry.  There is an increasing array of accommodation and service options available to retirees, with more and more providers offering a diversity of different facilities including :

  • Retirement Villages
  • Over 50s Resorts
  • Aged Care Centers
  • Nursing Homes

It is becoming increasingly challenging for Aged Care providers to “stand out from the crowd” and effectively promote and market their offerings.

 

Why a Virtual Tour ?

For a whole lot of reasons, Virtual Tours are a fantastic way to showcase Aged Care facilities to potential residents (and their families).  Some of the advantages a Virtual Tour has over traditional marketing strategies include :

  • Innovative – a Virtual Tour is a unique and innovative way for potential resident to “experience” and interact with your facilities
  • Multi Use – there are many ways your Virtual Tour can be used.  It can be embedded into a Website, posted onto Social Media, emailed as a link, or experienced via a Virtual Reality (VR) Headset
  • Reusable – once you have a Virtual Tour setup, it can be used and re-used multiple times… Only needing refreshing/updating if you have a significant change in the physical appearence or layout of your facility
  • Easy Access – a Virtual Tour can be available to anyone with Internet Access.  Potential residents do not have to physically visit your location to get a taste of the facilities you offer.  This is ideal for Remote, Interstate or even International prospects
  • Ease of Use – most people find using and navigating a Virtual Tour fairly intuitive and are able to use it with little or no instruction
  • Time to Market – typically we would be able to create and publish your Virtual Tour within 7-10 days of the photoshoot (large or very sophisticated VTs may take a little longer)
  • Emotional Attachment – because of the interactive process involved in undertaking a  Virtual Tour, and the “control” the user has over their experience, it naturally becomes a more emotional experience than is possible with photos or video (which offer very little in the way of participation).
  • Extra Information – a Virtual Tour can include hotspots and extra functionality to help showcase your facility, such as :
    • Your Branding/Logo
    • Links to a website
    • “Call Now” Link to directly dial a phone number
    • Menu system / Navigation
    • Hotspots with popup Information, Photos or Video
    • Background Sound
    • and more…

 Virtual Tour Options

There are a variety of different types of Virtual Tours and associated available for Aged Care facility providers, at a range of costs and offering a variety of different features

Google Virtual Tour

This types of tour is probably the one that is most widely noticed…. because it is accessible directly from Google Search / Google Maps, and can also be embedded into a website, sent as a link, or added into social media.  It is the simplest Virtual Tour to setup and publish, but has relatively limited features. Examples :

Standalone Virtual Tour

Standalone Virtual Tours are the most popular style of VTs for the Aged Care/Retirement Industry because they allow you to include Logo/Branding information and offer a wide variety of features and functionality, including Hotspots, Menu Navigation, Image/Video Popups, Background Audio, Auto Rotation… and more… Examples :

Individual 360° Panospheres

An Individual 360° Panosphere is a single interactive image – usually published to Google Maps.  It doesn’t include navigation/walkthrough capabilities or fancy features, but can be added to Google Maps, embedded into your website, or posted to social media. Examples :

Street View Tours

If your facility includes public road access, then it will (probably) eventually be covered by Googles Street View… However you are likely to be waiting years before the Street View Car is scheduled to visit your development.  We can shoot and publish (to Google Maps) Street View Tours which are available from Google Maps much sooner without having to wait for Google). Examples :

Aerial 360° Panosphere

Like an Individual 360° Panosphere, an Aerial Panosphere is a single interactive image, but it provides an aerial perspective (taken from a drone) and provides a great way to showcase the location/community Examples :

VR Headsets

All Virtual Tours can be viewed from a mobile device or a desktop, however, it is also possible to view most (sometimes with extra customisation) via a Virtual Reality Headset such as the Oculus Go (a Standalone VR Headset with excellent image quality).  This is a much more immersive experience and is a fantastic way to showcase your facility at Expos or Trade Shows.

What About Costs?

Prices for a 360° Photo or Virtual Tour to showcase your Retirement Facility, start from as little as $120 for an Individual Photosphere ranging up to several thousand dollars for a large sophisticated Standalone Virtual Tour.

If you’d like to discuss how we can help you create a Virtual Tour to promote your Aged Care Facility, give Andy a call on 0403 023 223 or ContactUs.

Promote Your Business with Aerial Photos and Video

You have probably noticed an increased use of aerial photography and video in the media …. These days you can’t watch TV for 10 minutes without spotting some aerial footage ….

The reason for this issimpel … IT WORKS… Aerial Photos and Video provide an innovative and unusual perspective.. They allow people to see a location from an angle that they are not used to, and it captures their attention.

With recent improvements in drone technology, this type of footage is easier and cheaper to create then ever before, so business owners are finding it much more affordable.

There are various type of aerial photography and video which may useful to help promote your business.  Below is a brief outline of the main types of aerial footage that might be useful… along with some examples.

Aerial Photos

Aerial Photos provide a different view of your business to capture the attention of potential new customers.

Aerial 360° Photospheres

Aerial Panospheres can be used as a standalone interactive photo in their own right, or incorporated into a Virtual Tour.  They can be embedded into a website, published on social media, or emailedt as a link.

Aerial Video

Video taken from the air provides a unique perspective on your business.

 

Aerial Timelapse

A timelapse is an great way to showcase your location over time…it highlights changes that may not be obvious in a standard photo or even video.  An aerail timelapse would typically be taken from an elevated position (sometimes directly overhead), but can also be done as an Aerial Hyperlapse (where the camera moves over time – creating a speeded up video effect).

If you’d like to find out more about Business Photos can help you
use aerial photography to promote your business,
please call Andy on 0403 023 223 or Contact Us.

How to Embed a Virtual Tour into WordPress Website

You can find out How to Embed a Google Virtual Tour onto your Website in a post that I created some time ago… but this post focuses on how to embed a Standalone Virtual Tour to your website.

A Standalone Virtual Tour could have been created by a variety of different methods and could be hosted pretty much anywhere … but you should be able to access any standalone tour via a URL of some description.

The best way for you to embed a standalone virtual tour into a WordPress website is pretty straightforward using  a simple Iframe.

Using an IFrame

An IFrame (Inline Frame) is simply an HTML document (web page) embedded inside another HTML document on a website. It uses HTML code in the  following form :

<iframe src="WebsiteURL" width="300" height="150"></iframe>

… where WebsiteURL is the full URL of the embedded web page.

You also are able to specify the Width and Height of the Iframe.

In a WordPress website, if you simply paste the above code into the “Visual” Editor view it will not work… you need to switch to “Text View” before you paste it in, and then switch to Visual View to see how it behaves.

So… to embed the Virtual Tour at  https://kangaroopoint.panoview.com.au  into a 600 x 300 pixel “Frame” within this page…. I  simply use the following code :

<iframe src="https://kangaroopoint.panoview.com.au" width="600" height="300"></iframe>

as follows :

How to Embed a Google Virtual Tour into a Facebook Page

Once a Google Virtual Tour has been published, it can be accessed direct from Google Search or Google Maps, but can also be used in a variety of other ways… You can send links to any view of a Google Virtual Tour, or Embed the tour into your website.  This post provides simple instruction on how you can embed a Google Virtual Tour into a Facebook Page.

First you need to Install a special App called Woobox – this allows you to create a Tab on your preferred Facebook page and insert HTML code into to.  To achieve this, Login to your Facebook account, navigate to the Woobox App and install it by clicking on the Install Page Tab link.

Then select which Facebook Page you would like to add the Tab to  and click on the Add Page Tab Button


After you click the  “Add Page Tab” button, you then you need to authorize the tab application.

Now open a new browser window and go to your Google Virtual Tour in Google Maps (this is important because only Google Maps now includes the embed option). Navigate to the place in the tour you want to start from.  Click on the “three dots” icon in the top left corner and select the “Sher or embed image” option… Click the “Embed Image” Tab; Set the custom width/height to 800 x 600 and Copy the embed code.

Now go back to your Facebook tab page and paste the code from your Google Maps embed into your Woobox custom facebook tab.  Save the settings, then go to “Tab Settings” to give the Tab a suitable title.

That’s it! Visit your facebook page and view your tab. This is what is should look like: Virtual Tour Examples

 

 

 

New Google Photo Tools for Businesses

Google My BusinessNew Photo tools – designed to enable businesses to add their own unique photos to search listings, Google Maps and Google+ pages have been launched by Google.

The New feature (known as “Business Photos”) has recently been added to their My Business service, to allow business owners to more easily add their own photos to their Google+ Business Page.

All business owners need to do to enhance their listings is log onto Google My Business and visit the new “Photos” section to upload images of their own choosing. Owners can also update their public-facing profiles, add logos and cover photos.

Contact Us if you’d like to find put how to add  a Google Virtual Tour to your business, or of you’d like some help optimising your Google+ Page, or see How to add local business photos for more information.

14 Reasons why Your Business Needs Business Photos

OK, so Business Photos and the capability to showcase your business with a virtual 3D Tour is pretty cool, but what are thge benefits and why would you want Business Photos for your business ?  Here are some reasons for yo to consider :

1. Raise the Profile of your business

Thousands of people search for local businesses every day on Google (you probably do it yourself).  Whether it is  restaurants, florists, garages, hotels or other retail shops or local services, people often usually include a “locality as a part of their search criteria. Google is the main source used to find local businesses and having a virtual tour of your business can make you stand out from the crowd and help attract local customers.

2. Haven’t I Been here Before ?

Allowing people to actually see inside your business gives them confidence and it truly feels like they been there before. People tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them. People seeing your virtual tour are more likely to visit your business compared to a competitor which don’t have it.

3.Celebrate your Uniqueness

If your business have some unique or unusual characteristics and you believe it could grab attention, a virtual tour is an ideal way to showcase your business. Offering a virtual tour gives the customer a great first impression which can cause Internet users to visit the physical store.

4. Brings your business to life

High quality 360° photos make it possible for visitors to see your premises like an interactive tour.  This is likely to increase the amount of new visitors to your Google+ Profile, Google Maps, your business in Google search and ultimately, your business in real life !!

5. Add Google Business photos to your own website and share on Social Networks

Once you have Google Photos in place it is very easy to add a virtual tour to your own website, and also promot the photos and links vioa soclail media (Facebook, Twotter, etc…).

When having virtual tours on multiple websites, such as your Google+ page, Google maps, Facebook and your website – there are many new opportunities for users to share or like your business.

6. Your business shown in the best light

Trusted Photographers have been trained by Google and have proven skills and experience to enable them to photograph your business in the best light. Every single business photo used in your virtual tour is taken in 3 different exposure modes, to ensure that your business in presented in the best possible light.

7. Enhance your business listing

Your Business Photo images and virtual tour will appear on Google search results, Google+ Local, and Google Maps. Web users love clicking on images and seeing inside. So this will surely lead to more people seeing your premises and services and most likely also attracting more customers.

8. Allow potential customers to explore online

Potential customers can engage and explore, walk-through, and truly experience your business. In many cases, this leads them to visit your shop, salon, garage, gym or restaurant.

9. Featured on your own Google+ page

With Google business photos your virtual tour is  prominently featured on Google+ Local. If you haven’t already uploaded Point of Internet (POI) photos, your trusted photographer can also update your Google+ listing with new and interesting photos of prominent features in your business.

10. All photos belong to you

The photographer assigns all ownership rights in the photographs (including intellectual property rights) to Business. You get full rights over all the photos and it’s free to use these images on your website, in newspaper adverts, magazines, outdoor advertising or anywhere else you wish. Your trusted photographer will send over all images on Google+ or if you prefer to have images on a disc, that can also be arranged.

11. You don’t need a website

You can take advantage of Google business photos without having a website. All photos will be uploaded to your Google+ page profile.

12. Encourage positive reviews

Having a virtual tour of your business can encourage visitors to leave reviews.

13. More repeat business

With plenty of similar businesses, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. Having Google business photos certainly help people to recognise the premises and making them more likely to return. Because if they cannot find the address to your premises there will never return.

14. Anyone searching for your services might see it

People searching for services and restaurants in local search are likely to see Google business photos. After all, people love looking into businesses and Google tend to show users what they want to find. Businesses with virtual tours, incoming links and many reviews by users are usually more likely to be shown in Google, Google+ Local and Google maps.

How to become a Trusted Photographer?

Currently there are fewer than 30 Google approved Trusted Photographers in Australia – mostly in Capital Cities as outlined below :

  • Sydney (3)
  • Melbourne (5)
  • Perth (4)
  • Brisbane (2)
  • Adelaide (4)
  • Other NSW (3)
  • Other VIC (1)
  • Other QLD (1)

It is pretty straightforward to apply to become a trusted photographer  (the application process is open to anyone – including amateur and professional photographers), but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of information available about exactly what the process is largely apparently because of an NDA that you will need to sign early on in the process).

This post attempts to collate information about what is involved in the process of getting approval as a Trusted Photographer.

Why become a Business Photos Trusted Photographer?

As a Business Photos Trusted Photographer you build relationships with local businesses and work with them to photograph their space.Google will provide you with the training and support needed to capture Street View imagery which will be published on Google Maps. As a qualified Business Photos Trusted Photographer you are able to run your own independent business (with free training and support from Google).

Apply to be a Google Trusted Photographer

The initial step to apply to be a trusted photographer is quite straight forward.  It is open to experienced  photographers – not necessarily just those already involved in a professional photography business.  There are a few suggested criteria though :

According to Google, you will need :

  • A passion to run a successful high volume photography business.
  • A commitment of 30+ hours a week to the Business Photos Trusted Photographer program
  • Proven tele-sales or door-to-door sales skills
  • Your own photography equipment (specific camera bodies and lenses do apply)
  • a Business license
  • a Computer with high-speed internet
  • a Gmail account
  • Your own photography business website

Once your application is processed, and Google determines that there really is a need for extra Trusted Photographers in your area, initial contact will probably be from a Google Rep via phone and  you may be contacted by Google for a “trial run”.    At this stage you will be sent a Non Disclosure Agreement and some training material,

What do I need to Learn

Google runs a free training program designed to teach experienced (not necessarily professional) photographers through the process required to take and submit photos for Google to “stich” into virtual walkthroughs.

You will need to study Google’s training material, and complete a test to prove that you have a clear understanding of the concepts it covers. If you successfully complete  this part of the process, you will be required to shoot some samples to submit to Google to ensure that you are able to meet required standards for quality-control purposes.

What Equipment Do I Need?

There are specific Camera Body and Lens combinations that are considered as acceptable equipment (these are not necessarily top end gear, you may actually need to down-grade), so if you you don’t already have the right equipment you may need to invest in some.  If you need to buy it all – the investment is likely to cost between $2,000 and $4,000, but most experienced photographers should have some (or all) of the gear already… and in the scale of things the cost is likely to be quickly recovered within a few sales.

The gear requirements does change from time to time, but apparently includes (but is not necessarily limited to) the following, Note this list is vague because publication of the actual list is restricted by the NDA, but it should give you some idea of what to ex[ect.

  • Canon EOS 7D Body
  • Sigma 8mm circular fish-eye lens
  • Canon 8-15mm f/4 L fish-eye lens
  • An Android phone (various models suitable)
  • A sturdy tripod and panoramic tripod head (e.g. Nodal Ninja R10) is also required

 Techy Photo Stuff

It is understood that Google requires photographs to be ‘bracketed’ to give 3 exposures (for HDR processing) at 90 degree rotations -i.e.  a total of 12 images for each location. Photos are to be taken with the panorama head set at 7.5 degrees above the horizon to give a good overlap at the top of the images, while leaving a small area omitted at the bottom of each shot where the head/tripod would appear.

Once the photos are taken there may need to be some post processing before they are provided to Google, along with some info about the layout of the business and exactly where each photo series was taken (this is necessary to create the virtual tour).  Google then “stitches” together the panorama for each spot, and creates the virtual tour map – they will also blur any faces (for privacy).

 See also :

Google’s Official Become a Trusted Photographer today  page

If you know any more about the recommended equipment or the process associated with becoming a trusted photographer… please leave a comment 🙂