Virtual reality (VR) is popping up in all kinds of walks of life and the number of applications for the technology seems to be growing by the day as more and more people tap into the potential benefits.

Over in the US at the Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism, two VR experts have been sharing their experience of using VR in marketing campaigns for tourist destinations, and have shared some examples of their success.

The Sentinel Record reported on the event, noting that VR could be a particularly useful tool for a place like Arkansas that isn’t at the top of the list of places tourists want to travel.

Derek Huber, director of marketing and strategy at the Freelance Society, told attendees that there are opportunities that can be utilised with the technology.

“As far as the whole middle US and south, there’s not many VR experiences out there for tourism. That’s the great thing about jumping on this now is that right now most people have never done this before. They’ve never experienced VR,” he stated.

That means that any tourism 360 VR that’s produced and marketed now will have a greater impact than it will in a few years’ time when the technology has become more widespread.

Dylan Roberts, CEO and co-founder of the Freelance Society, cited the success that they had with a VR tourism campaign in Hot Springs, adding that he hopes the state gets involved and that it’s important for state leaders to pay attention to these developments in technology and the benefits they can bring.

Qualcomm recently announced that it’s working on the development of AR and VR headsets that can be powered with 5G mobile phones.

The company unveiled its plans at the Mobile World Congress, explaining that its latest headsets will have their own displays and will be connected to a phone using a USB-C cable to enable it to run apps. This will combine the benefits of tethered and mobile headsets, The Verge revealed.

Although this in itself isn’t an entirely new concept, with LG having debuted something similar in terms of the connection in 2016, the news site noted that what makes the difference to the Qualcomm technology is the 5G capabilities.

This will allow users to stream higher quality content, thereby making the VR and AR experiences that bit more impressive and immersive.

From a tourism perspective, there are many ways in which this technology could be utilised. While VR might be a great way to introduce new people to destinations and get them excited about visiting, AR could be useful once they arrive.

With an AR headset and specially designed apps, travellers could carry a tour guide around with them who can not only give them audio detail about what they’re seeing, but also overlay useful information on the real world.

In scenarios where people are visiting historical ruins, for instance, the applications for AR are obvious. The technology can be used to allow people to see how they would have looked in their heyday, for instance, or to put artefacts in context.

M7Virtual have recently visited Ireland to produce an outstanding VR Tourism experience. The location in question was the stunning, world renowned hotel, Ashford Castle. 360 VR experiences can truly be an amazing marketing aid for these fine hotels. It gives the viewer a full 360 degree view of the hotel without leaving the room. This gives the potential customers a true insight into what they will be spending their money on.

Filming for 360 VR Tourism

Castle, Ashford, Gardens, VR Tourism
Ashford Castle itself captured in all its glory

Irish Castle captured in VR for Toursim

Using an array of rigging techniques M7 were able to capture these stunning grounds and its hotel in all its glory. The grounds of Ashford castle include its own lake, a stunning  4 star lodge, gorgeous cafes and even their own resident (now famous) Irish Wolfhounds. Celebs, royals and even presidents all can’t get enough of their amazing suites, spas and outdoor activities so M7 were chomping at the bit to begin this VR Tourism experience.

Irish Wolfhounds, RC Car, Kandao, Obsidian, VR Tourism
Kandao rig and the famous Irish Wolfhounds

Moving 360 VR Shots

Due to its versatility and overlap on its lenses, the Kandao Obsidian was used for the majority of shots. This was perfect for inside the rooms as it allowed M7 to expose each camera lens individually. We don't without loosing any detail outside the windows as a result of this. This gives us a much more polished final look.  The viewer is left still feeling immersed and like they’ve actually been teleported there.

Slider, Kandao, Cinema, Ashford Castle, VR Tourism
Our slider and Kandao rig about to capture the cinema room at Ashford Castle

We also used a small 4 rig consisting of 4 GoPro Hero 4 cameras as this set up works well for the drone. Building 190mm iZugar lenses into our GoPro made these drone shots possible. The drone we utilise for this shot was the DJI Inspire 2.

360 VR Camera Equipment

In order to use the most suitable rig possible for any given shot M7 used a variety of rigging techniques. M7's new 3 axis motorised Moza gimbal sat beneath our Kandao for many shots. This gives us a more stabilised image, making the post production process a lot quicker. Adding a hover board to this ensemble further stabilised the shot which totally eliminates the need for post production stabilisation. Having a knowledge of post production whilst on set is what M7 prides themselves on. Knowing what to do and what not to do can save vital time and effort at the post production stage. 

Fountain, Ashford Castle, Lodge, VR Tourism
The beautiful water feature at sunset captured on Ashford's grounds

Many of the rooms at the hotel required a combination of the Kandao Obsidian R and the slider. This adds that slight bit of movement to this experience without jarring the viewer. As a result is means they have more of a chance of taking in what the room looks like before buying. 

Capturing the remainder of this hotel was made possible by implementing both moving RC car shots as well as locked off tripod shots. The RC car provides the smooth movement, while the statics give the viewer a chance to look more into the finer detail of the rooms that required it.

Mixologist, Mixology, Kandao, Obsidian, Camera, VR Tourism, 360
Experienced Mixologist captured by the Kandao Obsidian R

VR Tourism for Leading Hotels of World Portfolio

All in all, M7 have captured not only a stunning and engaging 360 experience, but also one that teleports viewers to the glory that is Ashford Castle. Furthermore, Ashford Castle can now use as an excellent marketing tool for many years to come.

Using a VR headset or a compatible video player viewing this video both online and offline can be made possible. The videos for both Ashford Castle and its 4 star lodge are available below:




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