Those who wonder what's there to see in Gujarat can soon take a sneak peak of what it would be like to walk around the Indus Valley ruins of Lothal and Dholavira, or climb down the intricate 11th century stepwell Rani-ki-vav in Patan alongside the Saraswati River, without actually going there.
Gujarat Tourism Opportunity, a joint venture between Tourism Corporation of Gujarat and development finance company Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services (IL&FS), is making a 360-degree immersive live action virtual reality (VR) videos of these three locations, for use at tourism expos.
"The idea is to make people want to visit the destination so the videos will not be very long," said Mr. Ajay Parge, founder director at Pune-based Digital Art VRe that is creating the first set of videos as a pilot. He said the two minute long videos would be played using VR-enabled headsets. If the pilots generate good response, then the state tourist board could look at commissioning more than 100 videos to showcase different tourist attractions, said Mr. Parge.
While 360 degree videos are a huge improvement in how tourist sites have traditionally been promoted, giving the viewer a sense of the scale and depth of the actual location, experts said it remains too expensive to become a mass solution for tourism promotion. About a year ago, the Madhya Pradesh tourism department had carried out a pilot project when it got Indore-based TM Store to create 360-degree virtual reality films for two locales, which it planned to use at exhibitions. "Virtual reality is still to be seen as a mass solution. Doing this can be fairly expensive," said Mr. Virat Khutal, CEO at TM Store, who created these videos.
The company had also carried out a unique initiative during the Kumbh Mela in Ujjain earlier this year in collaboration with the Madhya Pradesh tourism board. "We created a 360-degree immersive video of the Mahakaal temple and the Bhasam aarti, and using Google Cardboard — a low cost VR headset, showed these to tourists at different hotels across the town," Mr. Khutal said. This helped deal with the problem of crowds during the Maha Kumbh since people could experience being at the temple from their hotels. While the company planned to reach out to five-million visitors, bad internet speeds played spoilsport.
Bandwidth is one major challenge when it comes to doing VRbased events and promotions. Another big issue is the lack of clarity in terms of what can be done. Mr. Rugwed Deshpande, who is also founder director at Digital Art VRe along with Mr. Parge, said: "It's still a new medium and there are no benchmarks in place for what should be done; people are still trying to figure that out." Using VR technology to promote tourism is rapidly gaining popularity world over, but cost remains an issue.
Source : The Economic Times