There has been much talk about how Covid-19 has accelerated changes in the way people work, in business travel and driving development and growth in online meetings and virtual conferences and trade shows. In 2020 change has been driven by public health concerns. But what if virtual travel becomes a better experience?
There has been less talk about virtual leisure travel, which as we wait for the decarbonisation of aviation may well be regarded as a more virtuous mode of travel. There are obvious disadvantages for transport and accommodation providers, attractions and café, bars and restaurants. There are advantages too for the consumers and the custodians of over visited places.
I interviewed Ian Care about the decarbonisation of aviation. He worked for Rolls Royce for close to 30 years in aviation. Ian suggested in one of the series of interviews Thinking Outside the Box that one way of reducing emissions would be for people to enjoy places virtually.
The interview with Ian started me thinking about virtual tourism. I went to Paris many times in the late series and early eighties and I have fond memories of the Louvre, the Centre Pompidou and the Musée d’Orsay. However, it isn’t easy really to enjoy and appreciate paintings if you are jostling in a crowd to see them. The galleries have introduced timed tickets and banned selfie sticks in the Smithsonian, the Colosseum, the Tower of London, the National Gallery, the Louvre and a growing list of places around the world.
In the UK, BBC Radio 4 has a landmark series on Moving Pictures now in its fourth season.
“Each thirty-minute episode of Moving Pictures is devoted to a single artwork – and you’re invited to look as well as listen, by following a link to a high-resolution image made by Google Arts & Culture. Zoom in and you can see the pores of the canvas, the sweep of individual brushstrokes, the shimmer of pointillist dots.”
The BBC has worked with Google to enable listeners to view the artworks being discussed in great detail using augmented reality; to see them in great detail than would be possible in a gallery. You can see the artworks here.
Mona Lisa: Beyond the Glass was the first virtual reality experience presented by Musée du Louvre. It was shown from October 2019 to February 2020 in the Napoléon Hall, as part of the Louvre’s 500th anniversary of da Vinci’s death. It is available now for viewing from anywhere in the world on VIVE Arts.
“The virtual reality experience combines moving image, sound and interactive design to create a deeply engaging way to immerse visitors in the world of da Vinci’s as well as bringing to life decades of conservation research and data, including infrared scans. Transporting the viewer through time, the experience unveils insights into how the artwork was originally created, how it might have looked in the past, and how it has changed over 500 years due to exposure to light and humidity. The narrative component of the experience dispels some of the many myths about the famous Mona Lisa by revealing more about her identity, providing additional details about how her appearance indicates her social status.”
This is a rich and authentic experience which cannot be enjoyed standing in front of the picture in the Louvre. There are many more virtual reality projects on VIVE Arts site.
Virtual Reality (VR) also enables people to gain an understanding of the architecture and archaeology of sites. ScanLAB Projects has worked with BBC television on a series of programmes to discover Italy’s Hidden Cities. To date, they have produced VR tours of Tome, Naples, Venice and Florence.
Take a look at the videos here
For sure, these VR experiences offer a rich and authentic experience. They complement a visit. They may come to be seen as superior or they may not. It is just possible that Venice and the other great destinations will come to be dominated by the trophy photo hunters – or perhaps photoshopping will undermine that market too.