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In the middle of June, Pure Michigan launched the first live virtual tour in Northern America in collaboration with Tom Daldin, host of PBS show Under the Radar. This means that the US state travel promotion agency becomes the first in the United States to host a first-person, real-time interactive web experience using wearable technology. Melbourne, Australia has been the first destination to take advantage of this growing tech, and the first experience offered by Pure Michigan promises to be a memorable one.

Virtual Mackinac Island Trip

Already last month, virtual visitors were offered the opportunity to explore Mackinac Island - named one of the most attractive islands in the United States - and interact with a travel guide in real-time. Viewers from every continent on the planet (except Antarctica), tuned in to the event and participated actively More than 22 countries from around the world watched the broadcast, and the first attempt to engage people in this manner by Pure Michigan must be considered a success.

The technology utilised to achieve this effect was provided by Georama; an interactive travel discovery platform that describes itself as “helping people experience the world anywhere, anytime.”

Two-way Interactivity

Georama's platform enables two-way interactivity to take place, enabling guides to field questions and recommendations from viewers during the broadcast. The ability to interact with people in real-time is a fascinating aspect of this technology, and consequently the entire 4-hour campaign generated 845 interactions.

Although the technology provided by this Chicago-based start-up company makes obvious sense for tourist boards, it also has a wide variety of other applications. Georama has previously worked with colleges, hotels and hospitals in order to provide a variety of virtual tours. In January, Georama hooked up with Lurie Children's Hospital to take patients on a virtual tour of the downtown Christkindlmarket, enabling children to sample toy shops, food stalls, sweets stores and souvenir shops.

Considering the success of this first virtual tour, it is perhaps not surprising that Pure Michigan already has a sequel in mind. Thus, on 16th July, another virtual tour will take place, this time of Detroit zoo; the first zoo in the United States to utilise open natural exhibits. The Michigan tourist board states that this new virtual tour will enable viewers to enjoy a panoramic Detroit zoo experience, visiting giraffes, monkeys, polar bears, zebras and many other animals.

Once again, Pure Michigan has decided to partner with Georama in order to deliver this event to viewers, and an interactive travel guide will once again ensure that this is a two-way experience. The live streaming of audio and video will come direct from the zoo, and there will be the opportunity for viewers  to not only ask questions, but also offer feedback to the tour guide operating the virtual tour camera (which will once again be Daldin). You can access this coming event here.

Previous VR Articles

The Digital Tourism Think Tank has reported on several previous occasions about the potential that virtual reality offers both destinations and travel-related companies. This is certainly an exciting time for virtual reality, considering that major VR projects such as Oculus Rift, Project Morpheus and Hololens, produced by Facebook, Sony and Microsoft respectively, are all nearing completion.

Our article back in February looked at a raft of virtual reality projects that are currently in operation or being developed. This included Australia’s Qantas’ unique virtual reality offering in its Sydney and Melbourne International First Lounges and first-class cabins, enabling first-class customers to access a three-dimensional, 360-degree style interactive viewing experience.

Other reports have focused on Fove’s offering of VR via mobile, British Columbia’s first virtual reality tour, and best practices for augmented reality in tourism.

It is quite clear that both augmented and virtual reality have a viable future in tourism and destination marketing, even if some of the earlier attempts to get mainstream consumer electronics related to the technology off the ground have been unsuccessful. Google has put its Glass project on the back burner for the time being, but has also stated publicly that it remains committed to the concept.

The forthcoming virtual reality projects related to video games could be the moment that virtual reality truly enters the mainstream. It would thus be worthwhile for destination and travel-related marketers to get up to speed with this absorbing technology right now, ahead of what could be a revolution in the future.

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