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A virtual tour is an online tour of a real location. Their purpose is to provide the viewer a more immersive experience than mere images can provide. Locations which make good candidates for a virtual tour include:

  • Your business premises.
  • Park grounds of public gardens and universities.
  • Museums.
  • Real estate for sale.
  • Touristy city streets.

Types of Tours

Virtual tours can take a variety of different forms. Some of them are easy to implement within a website, and some require a dedicated interface. Some examples include:

  • Video tours – Usually shot on a stabilised camera called a Steadicam to simulate walking through an area. Video tours are easy to implement on a website as they can be embedded from Youtube or uploaded just like any other video file.
  • 360° panorama camera shots – Photographers take several photos in one location and stitch the photos together. They repeat the process for additional locations as necessary. The tour will have a web interface for moving between locations. 360° panorama tours are what most people think of when you say ‘virtual tour’. 360° tours are often enhanced by adding interactive areas within a panorama which shows information in text, images or videos. The most well-known example is Google Streetview.
  • Rendered 3D environments which simulate a location. Property developers utilise this technique to tour building designs that don’t yet physically exist.

Implementing Virtual Tours

There are two main components to implementing a virtual tour in your website.

  1. Shooting it.
  2. Implementing the web interface.

Dedicated companies are usually required to shoot virtual tours due to the specialised equipment required. We don’t have the capability to shoot tours but we can implement the tour material onto your website.

Online virtual tour interfaces are commonly written in HTML5, Java or Flash. We don’t recommend using software written in Flash, as thanks to Steve Jobs, Flash is a dying language. The most future-proof way to code a virtual tour is with HTML5.

One tool for making HTML5 virtual tours is Panotour. If you’re looking for a company to shoot a virtual tour, Google maintains a list of approved companies for use in an indoor StreetView.

Further Reading

Read more about virtual tours at these resources:

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