VIRTUAL VISIT : When real and virtual meet

Flavie Dusé - 19/11/2021

Introduction

Did you know that you can now visit the Pharaohs' Museum in Egypt, the hotel for your next holiday or your future school while staying in bed? You think it's impossible?

And yet I assure you that it is possible thanks to virtual visits!

This concept has been emerging for several years now and is booming, users' expectations are increasing and this is only the beginning...

What is a virtual tour?

A virtual visit is a simulation of a site discovery. Using digital media such as screens, computers, tablets, or virtual headsets, the user can move around in space, and visualise the place as in reality.

The image evolves dynamically according to the user's request. By clicking on a point in the scene, it moves and the viewpoint changes. It is a total immersion in a place where navigation is simple and free.

Its history...

It all started in the 90's with the explosion of the internet, that's when virtual tours started to appear. At the beginning, the method used was to burn videos on CD-Rom, and then users would watch these videos to discover the places as if they were there. But everything has changed since then! Time has changed and so has technology! Technologies that were once state-of-the-art have become obsolete.

Today, many changes have been made, CD-Roms are less and less used and will surely disappear in a few years. Everything is now possible with a phone or a computer equipped with the Internet: watching videos, listening to music, watching films and series...

This is also the case for virtual tours. These are now possible in 3D or 360°. But what is this?

360° virtual tours are created by combining several panoramic photos. By jumping from point to point like in Google street view. This makes it possible to create a tour of an existing place.

Conversely, 3D allows you to create a virtual tour of an imaginary or reality-based environment that can be personalised. This is not created from photos, but rather from synthetic images or 3D models.

360° and 3D are two different ways, one representing an existing place and the other a construction project or the retranscription of a real place, notably by the atmosphere which allows a multi-sensorial immersion. However, the concept of use is similar.

In the scene, interactive elements are placed, for example arrows that allow the user to move in space, or objects on which we can click to obtain a detailed description.

There are multiple functionalities for virtual tours such as :

What benefits do we gain?

Virtual tours are increasingly being used by a variety of people, and there is a benefit for everyone.

Organisations/companies that implement this concept build trust with their customers, employees, etc. by authenticating their premises. They stand out from the crowd with this innovative approach. It also enhances the value and presentation of the premises, as anyone can access them easily, anytime and anywhere. In addition, they diversify their clientele, especially internationally.

Moreover, Google better refers businesses offering virtual tours of their premises with Google My Business.

But it is not only businesses that appreciate this idea, visitors also benefit from it.

Thanks to the virtual tours, they can obtain more information that they would not necessarily have had during an open visit. They also get an overview of the place before they go there, so that they are not unpleasantly surprised by the sometimes misleading photos. In addition, it saves time and organisation.

This innovative concept literally saved several business sectors during the health crisis in 2020. For example, museums that did not physically receive visitors continued to sell tickets online for virtual tours. And this was a real success.

In addition, we were able to go back in time through virtual tours by reconstructing old historical places.

In which sectors does it operate?

The implementation of these has developed considerably in various sectors such as

Current trends

Virtual tours are much better developed than before, thanks in particular to artificial intelligence. Some are developing avatars capable of answering questions, informing and guiding users. There is therefore more interactivity. In addition, there are animations in the scene, such as trees moving, people moving, chimney fires, music, noises, etc. This makes it more alive and the immersion is stronger.

Nowadays, the different virtual worlds fascinate young people through video games but not only, this technique is used in a more serious context, for learning, teaching etc. (See article on immersive learning)

Immersion in a real or fictional interactive world creates visitor engagement. Avatars are present to combine both the "game" and the "explanatory" sides.

In 2050, everything suggests that the future will be immersive. This is evidenced by the fact that giants like Facebook are accelerating their investment in the Metaverse. Who knows? Our technologies and our future are still full of surprises! We are not done being bluffed!

Conclusion

Mobility is a key issue today, as the exchange of goods and the flow of people has transformed the global economy. Moving around is so easy in 2021, but we almost forget that we are destroying our environment. Wouldn't virtual tours be a way to remedy this? Or at least to improve it, because let's not forget that datacenters and equipment dedicated to virtual technologies still consume a lot of energy.

By staying at home, we can be in several places at the same time, no need to be packed like sardines in a can in public transport, nor to waste time in traffic jams, and to top it all off, it would be a great benefit to our Earth.

Still not convinced?

I invite you to check out the links below, and see how great virtual tours are, immerse yourself in a world you like and enjoy the moment!

Riding the Vespa and heading to Italy to discover the Vatican Museum.

Without leaving your cave, discover the Chauvet cave.

Looking for your future home?.

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