Summary of Steps: 1. Why you should use 360/VR for your app 2. How to film or create your 360 media 3. How to author in the InstaVR platform 4. How to publish for your travel, tourism, or hospitality app 5. What’s next?
1. Why you should use 360/VR for your app
The tourism, travel and hospitality industries are uniquely suited for VR applications. One of the main purposes of using virtual reality is to make a unique, immersive experience that transports the viewer to a different place. For companies looking to generate more visits, there’s no better marketing material than a VR app!
Witness our client TUI Group. They’ve created over 90 tourism apps for the Gear VR headset on our platform. These VR experiences help them sell Destination trips. The reason their VR apps are so successful is many: 1. Just having the headsets starts conversations between TUI employees and guests. 2. The VR experiences help demonstrate experiences with images and sound, which are simply more vivid than words can do justice. 3. The VR apps give guests a first-hand view, so they can get excited 4. For difficult to describe experiences, or if your guests don’t speak your language, VR helps to better explain.
Or check out Hello Kitty. Their Puroland theme park uses InstaVR to create VR apps that convince overseas travel agents to book travel to their location. Just like with TUI Group, the immersive and vivid nature of VR experiences transcend language differences. And the tour, led by Hello Kitty herself, is much more memorable than any flier or web site could be.
Step 1 is deciding what you want to feature in your 360/VR application. What is your end goal? With TUI Group, it’s to sell guests on their Destination Excursions. With Hello Kitty, it’s to generate interest in overseas travel agents to book with them. Before you start capturing footage with a 360 camera, understand what your VR app will be, and how you will convey that through 360 images and video. Only once you’ve either mentally or visually storyboarded your VR app should you out and start recording.
Image Courtesy of TUI Group.
2. How to film or create your 360 media
Before authoring your VR app using InstaVR, you’ll need to actually capture the media you want to use. This will likely be a combination of 360 camera images, 360 video, 2D images or videos for hotspots, and potentially supplementary audio.
Let’s take a look at each of the options a little more in advance:
- 360 Images – All major 360 cameras will export to jpg or png, our allowable 360 image format for upload. If you’re going to highlight numerous destinations in your VR app, even if they’re video, you may want take a 360 image to use as a de facto home screen. Also, it’s important to understand that the further away objects are in a scene, the harder they’ll be to clearly see in the app. So think very carefully about camera placement.
- 360 Video – Like with the images, most 360 cameras will export to a video format compatible with InstaVR, mp4. You’re going to want to keep your video length relatively short. It’s better to have multiple scenes, edited together using InstaVR, rather than a single long video. And when selecting a 360 camera for video specific apps, we highly recommend a camera that captures in 4K or better.
- 2D Images or Videos for Hotspots – In addition to your 360 media, you can add entertaining or informative hotspot overlays on your 360 media. For instance, a user can get a close up view of a feature at a resort. Or you can Photoshop a png/jpg image with text facts. Or you can add 2D video to augment your 360 stills. There’s lots of possibilities with Hotspots. Just remember to take along a DSLR camera or high-powered phone on your shoot to capture some additive hotspot media.
- Supplementary Audio – For your app, particularly if you’re capturing images in lieu of video, you may want to overdub narration or music. This is particularly helpful for a travel app, as it will provide additional information to the viewer. That audio needs to be captured in mp3. You’ll want to consider how long users will be viewing each scene when deciding how long you want your audio narration to be.
Step 2 is capturing the media to be included in your 360 tourism, travel or hospitality app. It’s better to capture too much media at first, so you can pick the “best of” to include in your final InstaVR-generated app. Don’t overlook 2D regular images and videos for hotspots, and mp3 for narration or music. Hotspots create engagement, and audio creates a total sensory experience.
3. How to author in the InstaVR platform
Authoring a VR application on InstaVR is a simple drag-and-drop process. We’ve put together a handy guide specifically for the Ricoh Theta -> InstaVR app creation process here.
Below we’ll focus on a few considerations specific to travel, tourism, and hospitality apps:
- How many apps should I create? It depends on how much media you’re including. If you want to do longer, more complete apps for travel or hospitality, it’s best to do one app per destination. TUI Group, for instance, does one single closed-end app for each Excursion they’re promoting. If you have one location — say Universal Studios — and you’re mainly focusing on still images, you can feature a number of different attractions in a single app.
- Image-based or video? Or both? Video will be more popular, particular if there’s a lot of movement to the travel/tourism location you’re trying to feature. Images are a better fit for hotels, restaurants, etc that are more static. Videos take up more space than images though, so if using video, condensing to a shorter period of time is best.
- Passive VR or Active VR? Should you include Hotspots? How about a Call-to-Action so a viewer can directly call you? In many instances, yes. If the viewer has limited time to view your VR experience though — say it’s at a tradeshow — it’s probably best to do passive VR (no hotspots or navigation links), and just let the audience enjoy your 360 captures.
Step 3 is authoring. It’s best to do a simple, intuitive app with easy navigation that makes sense to the user. If you’d like to provide more information than the 360 panorama can convey, consider utilizing Hotspots. And do be cognizant of not making your VR experience too long.
Image Courtesy of Sanrio
4. How to publish for your travel, tourism, or hospitality app
There are many headsets to choose from when featuring your app. Though you can publish to all using InstaVR, some are more appropriate than others for various situations.
Let’s take a look at what type of distribution models each of the main VR headsets are appropriate for:
- iOS/Android/Google Cardboard If you want to showcase your VR app to a broad audience, this is your best route. The absolute best thing to do is utilize an Apple or Google Developer account to post their respective stores. Absent that, you can self-host a Android .apk on your web site for users to download.
- Gear VR / Google Daydream These are great mobile headsets for taking on the road with you or showcasing at your business. You can’t have as many simultaneous VR viewers as with iOS/Android, absent a huge budget for Gear VR/Daydream, but you’ll give them a very memorable and immersive experience. That’s why companies like Hello Kitty, TUI Group, and more utilize them.
- HTC Vive / Oculus Rift If you have a fixed location where you want to show off your VR — say a sales office at a major resort — Vive or Rift are good choice. They’re a bit more expensive, and tethered to a computer, but if you have some high end 8K 360 media you want to show off, these are good platforms for it.
- WebVR – WebVR is probably best for just advertising your VR experiences on the other headsets. Why? Because VR video plays better on native apps than WebVR, due to differences in frame rates per second. That being said, you can use WebVR to advertise your apps on Facebook or on your own web page. Witness how the Smithsonian American Art Museum uses a WebVR “teaser” to encourage you to download their app from the App stores.
Step 4 is distributing your VR app. You’re going to want to pick the right headset for the right occasion. Showcasing your VR at a tradeshow or your hotel front desk? Use Gear VR or Daydream. Wanting users from around the world to download your app showcasing your city, state, or country? Publish to iTunes or Google Play. Trying to sell timeshares for your condo? Maybe a Vive or Rift will impress customers. Pair up the headset with the intended audience, and you’ll give them the best experience.
5. What’s next?
After you’ve published your app, you want to track how effective it is. At Hello Kitty, for example, they found that viewers of the VR headset definitely got a more memorable experience than if they just described Puroland. With TUI Group, they were able to identify a tangible uptick in sales during their test pilot phase.
Once you’ve identified what works, make more apps and distribute them. TUI Group has generated 90 of them, and they take less than an hour each to create and distribute!
Travel, tourism, and hospitality are unique industries in that they rely on people to move from one location to another for the business to be a success. That first step, getting them interested in visiting, is greatly aided by the immersive and engaging experience that VR enables. Creating 360 VR applications is simple.
If you’re in one of these industries and not currently utilizing 360 media + InstaVR, you’re missing out on a great opportunity!
VR makes for an engaging and memorable addition to your event marketing plans. And InstaVR makes it so anyone at your company, regardless of technical skills, can create VR apps in minutes.