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A virtual tour is a simulation of an existing location, usually composed of a sequence of video images. They also may use other multimedia elements such as sound effects, music, narration, and text.The phrase "virtual tour" is often used to describe a variety of video and photographic-based media.panorama indicates an unbroken view, since a panorama can be either a series of photographs or panning video footage. However, the phrases "panoramic tour" and "virtual tour" have mostly been associated with virtual tours created using still cameras. Such virtual tours are made up of a number of shots taken from a single vantage point. The camera and lens are rotated around what is referred to as a nodal point (the exact point at the back of the lens where the light converges).

A video tour is a full motion video of a location. Unlike the virtual tour's static wrap-around feel, a video tour is as if you were walking through a location. Using a video camera, the location is filmed while moving from place to place. Video tours are continuous movement taken at a walking pace.

History

The first use of a Virtual Tour and the derivation of the name was in 1994 as a museum visitor interpretation, providing a 'walk-through' of a 3D reconstruction of Dudley Castlemarker in England as it was in 1550. This consisted of a computer controlled laserdisc based system designed by British based engineer Colin Johnson.

One of the first users of a Virtual Tour was Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, when she officially opened the visitor centre in June 1994. Because the Queen's officials had requested titles, descriptions and instructions of all activities, the system was named and describes as: "Virtual Tour, being a cross between Virtual Reality and Royal Tour." Details of the original project can be viewed online. The system featured in a conference held by the British Museum in November 1994 and in the subsequent technical paper.

Methods of creation

Stitching photographs

One popular method of creation is to stitch photographs taken from the same point in space but of varying pitch and yaw in order to create a panoramic image which, when rendered using appropriate software (usually through web browser plugins), allows the end user to pan and zoom at will. The benefit of this method is that it does not require any specialized equipment to capture the images, although using such can greatly speed up the process and render a higher quality result. This photographic technique results in a limited depth of field, meaning that the space may appear warped. The next generation of this technology is the Virtual Walk-Through. This technology eliminates the limitations involving depth of field by enabling a user to travel tangentially throughout a space, in addition to rotating the point-of-view in any direction.

Video-Based Virtual Tours

With the expansion of video on the internet, video-based virtual tours are growing in popularity. Video cameras are used to pan and walk-through subject properties. The benefit of this method is that the point of view is constantly changing throughout a pan. However, capturing high-quality video requires significantly more technical skill and equipment than taking digital still pictures. Video also eliminates viewer control of the tour. Therefore the tour is the same for all viewers and subject matter is chosen by the videographer. Editing digital video requires proficiency with video editing software and has higher computer hardware requirements. Also, displaying video over the internet requires more bandwidth. Due to these difficulties, the task of creating video-based tours is often left to professionals.

Specialized Software

Various software products can be used to create media rich virtual tours, and some examples include methods developed by MOVES Institute at the Naval Postgraduate Schoolmarker.

Applications

Virtual tours are used extensively for universities and in the real estate industry. Virtual Tours can allow a user to view an environment whilst on-line. Currently a variety of industries use such technology to help market their services and product. Over the last few years the quality, usability and accessibility of virtual tours has improved considerably, with some websites allowing the user to navigate the tours by clicking on maps or integrated floor plans.

Web-based

For most business purposes, a virtual tour must be accessible from everywhere. The major solution is a web-based virtual tour. In addition, a rich and useful virtual tour is not just a series of panoramic pictures. A better experience can be obtained by viewing a variety of materials such as that obtained from videos, texts, and still pictures in an interactive web content. There are many ways to gather data in a mixed web content, such as using rich content builders (Java applet or Adobe Flash being two examples) or a Web content management system.

Real estate

Virtual tours are very popular in the real estate industry. Several types of such tours exist, including simple options such as interactive floor plans, and more sophisticated options such as full-service virtual tours. An interactive floor plan shows photographs of a property with the aid of a floor plan and arrows to indicate where each photograph was taken. Clicking on arrows shows the user where the camera was and which way the camera was pointing. Full service virtual tours are usually created by a professional photographer who will visit the property being sold, take several photos, and run them through stitching software. Full service virtual tours are usually more expensive than interactive floor plans because of the expense of the photographer, higher-end equipment used, such as a digital SLR camera, and specialized software. Real estate virtual tours are typically linked to the listing in the Multiple Listing Service. On web sites such as Realtor.com, listings with linked virtual tours receive as much as 40% more views than those without virtual tours.

See also



External links



References

  1. CSA Newsletter, Feb. '95 - Imaging The Past
  2. Virtual Tours of Dudley Castle archive
  3. 'Imaging the Past' - Electronic Imaging and Computer Graphics in Museums and Archaeology - ISBN 0861591143



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