Virtual tours are a fairly new phenomenon, which often leads to a bit of confusion. I’ll try to answer some of the questions I’ve encountered and hopefully clarify some of the terms
Not all virtual tours are created equal. There are many apps and platforms all saying they will easily make a “feature-packed” virtual tour. There are big differences however, in what they provide the end user. Here’s a brief description of the different options:
A video which shows a gallery of still images set to music or even a video walkthrough of a property can be effective, but it is not interactive and takes the viewer down one particular path. They aren’t able to stop and look around like they might if they were visiting in person. A 360 walkthrough video is a step up. An agent could also narrate to introduce important features along the way, while the viewer is able to swipe around the screen to look at the areas they are most interested in. They can even back up and replay the video to view the space from a different angle or perspective.
A single panorama is great and allows the viewer to swipe up, down, left, and right to see all around the space from one particular point. They are made from what are called equirectangular flat images. Think of a globe being flattened out to make a flat map of the world. Using cameras that take multiple images and software that stitches them together and creates a way to view it in 360, you really get the feeling of being in the space. Viewing them VR mode with a VR headset or something like Google Cardboard makes this experience even more immersive. Labels and call-outs can also be added to these images to highlight specific features.
Many virtual tour providers create tours by linking multiple panoramas together using “hot-spots”. These are visual cues that are also clickable links which show you the next image. Think of an image that includes a doorway. If the doorway included an arrow labeled “Bedroom” and you clicked it, the panorama taken from inside the bedroom would appear, and you would now be positioned inside the bedroom and looking around from there. These tours are effective and sometimes the hotspot labels really assist in the understanding of where you are at the time. Sometimes however, these point-to-point tours give the feeling of “tele-porting” to the next area without the proper context and viewers can get disoriented to where they are. Including a floorpan of the entire space showing the positions of the hotspots can help, but if your viewer feels lost they may loose interest quickly. When made carefully, they can work well and are especially good at showing exterior areas.
3-D walk-through tours
A true 3-D walkthrough experience requires a bit more. The 360 panoramas are connected to a 3-d wireframe model of the space. Think of the early video games where the environment looked like a simple line drawing in which you could move around. The software matches up the panorama images to the surfaces in the 3-d model and creates a smooth transition from one viewing position to the next. This smoother transition solves the tele-porting effect. The 3-d models can be generated from infra-red scans, Lidar, the panorama images themselves, or even drawn manually. Having a 3-D model attached to the panoramas allows the software to generate a floorpan as well as the dollhouse effect that many people find valuable. These tours are great at showing interior areas but exterior views can be a challenge and require a bit of creativity, sometimes linking to other panoramas or tours that are separate from the 3-d model.
- 3-D walkthrough 360 Virtual tours (Includes interactive floorplan and model view)
- Point-to-point 360 Virtual tours (includes interactive floorplan)
- 360 video walkthroughs — self-narrated or music background
- 360 panorama images for social media posts
The price depends on the type of tour, the size and the layout of your premises, and what features are needed. With a brief call, we can discuss the details so we can provide an accurate quote within one working day.