Top 12 Desktop and Cloud-based Virtual Tour Software (Workflow Included)
A virtual tour is a spherical format based simulation of a physical location. It’s generally made up of images grouped together or videos with linking hotspots. Bespoke virtual tours can contain other media such as sound effects, music, narration, and text. Unlike old media’s restraints, it offers a level of interactivity and decision-making to the consumer, and is a vastly more valuable tool for exhibiting a business location, event or location.
There are now multiple ways to consume a virtual tour, from mobile device finger scrubbable or gyroscope controlled, to desktop mouse or touch-screen interaction, and now head mounted displays (HMD) with various input methods. With the increased pick-up rate and usage of virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality HMD’s, it has become vital to offer at least 4k images and video with 6k and even 8k resolution.
Creating virtual tours online: cloud solutions
A virtual tour can be created online with various cloud based solutions or you can build them on desktop or now even on mobile.
Cloud solutions such as
as well as Tour Maker and others have matured and become worthwhile and viable solutions in their own right.
The newer services in particular is offering swift updates to their cloud based virtual tour solution. There are new players entering this space all the time at the moment so its worth having as look around and comparing current features is this is the way you want to go. Must have features of these solutions would be ‘live updatable’, meaning that if you need to do an edit while on the move, you can update your edit instantly to the cloud; and offering white label service for you to customize with your own branding of choice.
Main benefits of cloud based virtual tour solution
1. Work anywhere in your browser platform and stay hardware agnostic
With just an Internet connection, one may have a virtual tour up to be worked upon and reliably viewed in literally minutes. For spinning together of a rough demo onsite with a client these cloud based services are a required part of ones toolkit.
2. Live Updates automatically & consistently
3. Flexible pricing policy
Cloud based virtual your systems often offer a ‘pay-as-you-go’ pricing structure that means that you can upload examples of your work for a low starting cost and add features etc as you take on clients and require more corporate based professional features such as white labeling content.
4. Optimized workflow & collaborative systems
Cloud based Virtual Tour systems can minimize 50-60% of hair pulling out by building Virtual Tour thanks to avoiding task repetition. Although what you gain in convenience you give up in customizability and complete knowledge of your work. A traditional workflow requires the steps of tile creation and server upload whilst there is a more immediate workflow with a cloud based solution as these steps are handled off site and automatically generated for you, with an upload once, iterative approach to virtual tour creation.
5. Disaster recovery
How many times has a computer program or app crashed out without you having started the autosave (you are using autosave when working, right?). Cloud based solutions do not have this issue as they are always on and able to take you back to your last made edit.
Virtual tour software
You can make much more intricate and bespoke virtual tours using a piece of desktop software such as:
Being the most powerful solutions, these systems are often expensive, some updating slowly or having unpleasant UI’s.
Case in point for an expensive yet easy-to-use software is Panotour Pro from Kolor recently purchased by GoPro. It feature rich and powerful functions, as well as having an attractive GUI. The software currently sells for 399 euro. They have also spun out videos in photos to a completely new package for a handsome amount.
The different price points of the softwares reflects their feature set, however, and the ability to add different types of media to your experience and use case scenario. Currently, larger gigapixel images are only able to be used in desktop solutions, for this reason alone, it is the go to area for professional users.
Now that phone handsets are becoming increasingly powerful and as able as their desktop counterparts, it has become possible to create virtual tours on your handheld devices. Jobwalk by holobuilder is a great example of the possibilities that are opened up for app features in this domain.
It is also useful for a desktop software to offer plugins such as Pano2VR does with its WordPress exporting plugin.
The final type of virtual tour on offer that has not been covered is embodied by Google Street View and trusted photographers can use the Google software for free and have their tours hosted on Google servers for no cost. This is covered in my Google Street View tutorial.
General workflow for creating virtual tours
For this tutorial, it is assumed that you will have a stitched equirectangular spherical format image with a 2:1 ratio encompassing all 180*360 degrees of your scene. This is the most standard format you would receive from a branded 360 advertised multi-lens camera.
The following is a general flow for virtual tour creation, it is not software specific and you may have to add or miss out or morph steps due to your chosen software for virtual tour creation.
1. Open the chosen spherical format images in the software.
2. For each image, indicate the point of view, the default angle, the maximum zoom-in and zoom-out.
3. Create hotspots, in the form of sound, photos, html, links to another panorama, flare, videos, geo-localization, etc.
4. Customize the virtual tour: buttons, sound, Google Maps, radars, maps, miniatures, etc.
5. Choose the technical parameters such as compression rate.
6. Choose export settings.
7. The software then generates the virtual tour and its code and you’ll then only have to integrate the resultant pages or chosen export format to a website.
Dimona is a VR evangelist and spherical content creator based in London, UK. They have been experimenting within this arena since discovering VR as empathy machines whilst studying psychology at university. Dimona can be reached at Dimonauk@360camerasandfilm.co.uk or on social media by searching for dimonauk.