There’s no longer any doubt that augmented and virtual reality are a growing trend. But problems around cost and accessibility abound. With the aim of making VR more accessible, Google has launched a new tool called Tour Creator. The company already made an earlier attempt with Cardboard, the visor which may not have been able to compete with Facebook’s Oculus or the HTC Vive, but could show VR’s potential to anyone who could shell out the $15.
Google Tour Creator: how to create a virtual tour
The announcement about Tour Creator came as a surprise during the Google I/O conference which focuses on the education sector. This web app is made for students and allows them to create VR tours without any specialized technical knowledge. The new app works by using the Steet View database or user-created 360° photos, and it’s designed to support Google Cardboard and another of the company’s VR apps—Expeditions. Tour Creator seems like the natural progression from Expeditions, which offered users a more passive way to experience VR content and discover faraway places that they may not have otherwise been able to visit, like Machu Picchu or Antarctica.
To get started on a creation, first you need to name your tour and add a cover image. Then choose a location or point of interest on Google maps, or the tool lets you upload a 360° image and adds it to your tour choices. Tour Creator lets you add a button which will provide additional information on the place shown in the photo.
Your creations can then be exported to Poly, Google’s 3D library. At that point, just send the link to a device with a Google Cardboard headset and you can view the content in VR. And of course you can also see it in 2D from a normal web browser.
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Google and Virtual Reality: how the future could look
Since the launch of Expedition in 2015, Google’s data shows that more than 3 millions students have virtually visited far-flung locations around the world. Further development on Expeditions saw the introduction of a selfie stick last year that enables augmented reality experiences. Google’s AR works with any camera, but the company’s own Talco technology with 3D sensor makes the virtual experience extremely realistic. It’s very similar to Microsoft’s Hololens, and better than the View Mixed Reality technology that uses simple RBG cameras on computers and Windows tablets.
“It’s been a success beyond anything we imagined”, says Clay Bavor, VP of Google’s Virtual and Augmented Reality and head of Daydream. However, unlike Expeditions, Google Tour Creator offers great potential even outside of the education sector–to help businesses for example. “It’s not just a slideshow,” Bavor continues. “It can have narration, and interactive overlays, additional zoomed-in photos as part of the experience.” And regarding using it for business, Google has revealed that it’s already working with real estate companies who are using Tour Creator to create virtual guided tours inside buildings. Meanwhile, the airline KLM has set up a series of tours to train staff on different types of aircraft.