Travel and Relaxation
The definition of virtual tour can be many. Virtual Tour is an online program which allows the user through any of the building or similar premise, just like the real thing. It is used to define a method of showing online user the location or the inside of a premise. These virtual tours have become quite famous and are being used in variety of applications like architecture, engineering, construction, real-estate and travel. The idea behind this is to allow the user to see the place before it is developed in reality to the various stakeholders like the bankers, investors, customers, management etc. The process is also being used for the travellers who have never seen the location.
The Types of Virtual Tours
There are mainly two kinds of virtual tours. The fixed format tours are do-it-yourself kind of tours which are created using the images, texts, sounds etc. by the owner of the business themselves. Another method involves the use of professional services including the services of professional photographers, illustrators and programmers who can develop the tour as per the requirement of the client. The results can be much realistic and better in such case.
In the current market, the businesses have lot of options to select virtual tour provider. The best method to select virtual tour provider will be to make a list of the service providers, read and understand their reviews, and take a look through their portfolios. The things like clarity, stitching errors, color faults etc. affect the quality of virtual tour. Once the quality of the photographer is ensured, quotes should be arranged from the shortlisted vendors. It is important to take multiple quotes and understand the services and technology being offered by each of them. Sometimes virtual tours call for an independently hosted website, while at the other time these tours can be hosted on the servers owned by virtual tour provider. There are several plug-in through which people can view virtual tours (for example, Flash, QuickTime, Java, Shockwave and OpenGL). The same should also be discussed with virtual tour providers. Virtual tours can also have special features depending upon the purpose of the tour. For a building, some virtual tours might need to be cross linked, like linking of floor plan with outside space. Some virtual tours will call for the option of panning on and off to allow the users to focus on details. The Google maps can also be integrated in the system to give a geographical viewpoint of the tour. Audio tracks, video tracks and animation can also be made a part of virtual tours. Thus it is important to understand what kinds of features are being offered in these virtual tours at the given cost.
There are many methods to achieve virtual tour. One of the most commonly used methods is the use of the pictures. These pictures are captioned as per the necessity. These all round pictures give the glimpse of the area in complete. Another way to do so is to use the videos. The videos are another method of achieving the showing the area and the location in the video. The method is not very preferable unless the full-fledged technology to make the virtual tour is used. The use of the pictures, rather than the videos, is advantageous as it involves lesser bandwidth as compared to video and is suitable even for the dial-up connections. The third and the final method are to use the virtual reality program. This allows the user to interact with the location in almost-real time. The process involves the use of the virtual reality three dimensional programs to develop these tours. The user then is allowed to control from which angle they want to view the location from. This is the higher end method of developing the virtual tour. The most high-end technology is the use of CGI version of building which sees the building from different angles of camera.
Another method is to build the interactive virtual tour which allows the viewers to interact with the system in some manner. This is a seemingly complex method as the users are allowed to choose the angle of viewing. These kinds of tours are created with the help of flash and have clickable controls.
The software used for developing the 3-D models include 3-D modeling programs like AUTODESK MAYA, 3DS MAX or CINEMA 4D. Sometimes the virtual tour is created in more than two programs.
Virtual tour is more popular in real estate business as it allows the 360 degree view of space. It allows user to feel as if they are standing inside the building and take a look at the property without actually being there. The hotel chains also use these virtual tours to exhibit their rooms.
Advantages of a Virtual Tour
Virtual tour offers many advantages as well:
- Customers’ Preference: More than 50% of the online viewers prefer to visit a real location after having viewed its virtual tour. This gives them an idea of the product being offered
- Increase in sales: Virtual Tours help in simulating the decision of the customers as it is more interactive and convincing method.
- Increase in exposure: Virtual Tours increase the traffic to the website, thereby increasing the chances of increase in exposure.
- Show off the showrooms: This is the perfect method adopted by the retail businesses to show off their showrooms.
Thus as seen virtual tour helps both the customers as well as the sellers. The customers are benefitted as they get to see the product from the comfort of their home, and the sellers are benefitted because it increases their sales. For the profession like architecture, virtual tour is a necessity as it allows them to show the customers the details about the design. Similarly in engineering, these virtual tours help in showcasing the interference with the structures.
Disadvantages of a Virtual Tour
Although virtual tours offer many advantages, they have still not been implemented in all aspects of businesses. Some of the major limitations of these programs are as follow:
- Cost: One of the biggest limitations of the virtual tour is its cost. These tours are quite expensive for smaller businesses. Creating and maintaining a good quality online virtual tour calls for lot of money. Also, the online virtual tours will also need the domains and website registration cost along with the website maintenance cost.
- Technology: Virtual Tours depend on the success of the technology. The crash of computers, servers or the technology itself can result in breakdown of the complete tour making the bad impression on the client.
- Accessibility: An online virtual tour is completely dependent upon the availability of the internet. If the infrastructure is no available or is down for some reasons, the online virtual tours won’t work in such cases.
Cost Aspects of a Virtual Tour
The cost of the development of the virtual tour depends on type of project being commissioned. One should take the quotes from multiple vendors before developing virtual tour. The care should be taken to maintain the high quality of the tour. The cost of high quality tour might be comparatively more but virtual tour produced by company reflects the standards followed by the company. The customer judge the companies through the quality of the tours offered. Moreover the tours are going to be on the website for the longer period of time. Thus it is important to ensure the quality of the tours offered along with the cost of the tour. The cost should be compared with the features and the options that are being offered.
Virtual reality has changed the face of many businesses, and virtual tours are one aspect of it. Good virtual tours present the customers with the true view of the product, service or location being offered. Virtual Tours have the capability of improving the experience of the customers and of providing the better exposure through improve traffic. In short, use of virtual tours can result in higher sales.
A picture speaks better than the words. Addition of virtual tour makes sure that the customers are able to see the true picture. The skills and advantages of the location are best presented with the help of these 360 degrees virtual tours. Although virtual tours are not a necessity, presences of these tours give the competitive edge to the company. Also, since many of the businesses have already adopted the technology, the chances are that the company not adopting the technology might bear the blunt of the decision.
Also it is necessary to develop the tour carefully as it will be a reflection of the services offered by the company. Virtual tours are new realities of many of the businesses like real estate, engineering and architecture.