When I was in Washington D.C. before Christmas for the White House travel bloggers summit, I happen to be there the same time as the British Columbia tourism board was in town showing off a new project. My friend David Brodie, who was recently on Amateur Traveler talking about Fiji, invited me to come and experience a new Oculus Rift Virtual Tour of British Columbia.
If you are not familiar with the Oculus Rift, it is a new virtual reality headset that was created to provide an immersive gameplay environment. The headset provides binocular 3D vision as well as the ability to turn your head to the left or right or up or down to see different parts of a video scene. Add in a pair of noise-canceling headphones and you may look silly but you have your own little bubble of virtual reality so you don’t care.
The Wild Within VR Experience
What British Columbia created was a video tour called The Wild Within VR Experience which was filmed in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest, located along the central Pacific coast. You are on a whale-watching boat moving through the beautiful scenery near the Nimmo Bay Resort. You are offered a choice of two tours, one into the woods to a waterfall and one to see the sea lions. You focus on one of two icons that appear in the virtual world to choose from. The video continues along your chosen tour. While your guide is talking you can follow where he is pointing with your gaze or look around behind you to see where you came from.
Right now BC is showing this experience to press but the idea is that when VR headsets are more widely available you could download something to your system so that you could take this tour yourself.
The technology is much better than some of the old Quicktime VR tours that I worked on in the 1990s although the headset did not work as well for someone like me with glasses. The video was shot from the boat, from helicopters or from drones as you can see from The Making of The Wild Within VR Experience video below. What you are watching is a movie so the point of view of the camera would change rather suddenly and without warning and you would find yourself floating 20 feet above the boat which is a tad disconcerting.
“We think virtual reality is a great fit for tourism marketing. It lets our travel trade and media partners experience our destination in a new and unique way that has not been possible before. And, as the headsets become more widely available to consumers, virtual reality gives them a ‘360’ experience – immersing them in the extraordinary travel opportunities that British Columbia offers, from raw wilderness to refined cities, this was only achieved with the best 360 camera.”
Marsha Walden, CEO, Destination BC
The Making of The Wild Within VR Experience
So was it worth it?
The tourism board spent 5 days shooting the video for this. So was it worth it?
It is a new and unique approach. We will likely see more efforts in this area by other tourism boards and travel companies in the future. Did it make me want to visit the Great Bear Rainforest more than photos or a conventional video would have done? I am not sure. But it did make me want to visit for sure, but at least as much because Great Bear Rainforest is jaw-dropping gorgeous than because of the high tech wizardry… but high tech wizardry is cool too.