(Founder and President, Flyover Zone, USA)
As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the concept of virtual tourism has become more broadly known to the general public, and companies have sprung up to service this new market. To date, the majority of virtual tours have been little more than Powerpoint slide shows enriched by the live commentary of a guide shared over a web service such as Zoom.
In this talk, we will discuss the next phase in the evolution of virtual tourism, which we call Virtual Tourism 2.0. This is characterized by three new features as compared to version 1.0: (1) empowerment of the virtual tourist to take active control of the tour, visiting the points of interest in the order dictated by her curiosity; (2) travel through time as well as through space by the use of scientifically created and authenticated 3D reconstructions and restorations; and (3) the possibility to share the virtual tour with a select group of fellow travelers who may be colleagues, friends, or students. In the talk, we will exemplify these features by citing examples from our company’s portfolio of published virtual tours, including, for example, “Baalbek Reborn: Temples,” created in partnership with the German Archaeological Institute and the Lebanese Ministry of Culture. It is available at no cost and runs on devices including mobile (iOS/Android), laptops & PCs (Windows and Mac), and VR headsets (Oculus Rift and HTC Vive). Download it for free at www.flyoverzone.org
Virtual tourism 2.0 has advantages not only for end users but also for developers. We have created a Content Management System (CMS) that makes it easy for scientific teams to upload the raw elements of a new tour (images, 3D models, maps, texts, audio, etc.) and to assemble them into a new tour using the Unity game engine. Flyover Zone publishes not only the tours it develops itself with its scientific partners but also the tours of scientists not affiliated with the company, such as many members of the CHNT community who seek a peer-reviewed outlet for their own tours to significant cultural heritage sites. In addition to peer review, the company also offers third-party developers an instant way to market their work and to earn a royalty on sales through its strong connections with such stores as Apple, Google Play, Oculus, and Steam.
So, we conclude by inviting the participants of CHNT 2021 to consider submitting their virtual tours (or ideas for virtual tours) to Flyover Zone for possible publication. To initiate the process, please write to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org