31 March, 2017 By: Rebecca Martin
WA landmarks are coming to life with cutting edge virtual reality technology.
However, the theory is that being able to have a taste of what that experience is like will be enough for you to make the booking and go see Pemberton for real.
Nearly two years ago, it was a theory that the WA Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPAW) were willing to test.
Leaping very early into the technology with its Discovr WA app, DPAW made Western Australia one of the earliest tourism ‘destinations’ that can be downloaded and experienced through virtual reality stores.
“We were watching the VR trend become more mainstream,” says Rod Annear, Assistant Director of Visitor Services for DPAW. “When the handsets became more readily available, particularly with Samsung giving away Gear VR headsets by Oculus with their new phones we knew the time had come.“At about the same time we were thinking about how we could use virtual reality, a Perth VR company Viewport
got in touch with an idea and we decided to go with it."Virtual WA
DPAW wanted their VR app to be an all-encompassing experience to motivate viewers to take a real trip following their VR ‘journey’.
Given how new the technology is in the space, it was cutting edge stuff.
“Most other VR tourism things are for specific places, like a castle or historic site. However we don’t really know too many others that have tried to do a whole geographic area,” he says.
“The other big difference is that around 90 per cent of the VR you see is two dimensional, so you get a 360 degree view but you get no depth. We’re using stereoscopic so you feel like you have depth and distance.“That technology is still relatively challenging to do in terms of the process. You have to get good quality shots and take a lot of images and stitch them together to get the stereoscopic feel.”
Getting in early
Annear and the team were also cognisant of the advantages of being first to market.
“We wanted to get into it early and be one of the early tourism products in the VR store,” he says.
Launched 12 months ago, the Discovr WA virtual reality app brings to virtual life 35 different DPAW locations in Perth and the South West, including Lane Poole Reserve, Pemberton Parks and even ‘glamping’ sites in the South West.As well as being able to look around the location, you can hear the real sounds of each location and click through for more information when you want it.
Perth VR industry specialist Adam Geoghegan says VR is increasingly being embraced by the tourism industry because it allows consumers to try before they buy — an attractive prospect when considering a high-end holiday to a place you’ve never been before.“Tourism operators are able to give customers a close-to-reality ‘experience’ of the destination they’d like to visit before making an actual commitment to purchase it,” Geoghegan says.
“Recently it’s become a feasible way for tourism marketers to demonstrate the key features of their product due to the affordability of the headsets.”
For DAPW the virtual reality test-drive has so far been a success, with more than 25,000 downloads of the app so far.“We’ve had a lot of international interest where VR tech is a bit more common and we expect that to keep growing,” says Annear.
“We’re also looking at adding another 50 destinations, including the Pinnacles and more of Perth. In time we want to add places in the Gascoyne and Kimberly too.
“We might also add in a slideshare so you can just take a look at the highlights instead of navigating around.
“It’s still pretty early for virtual reality and using it for tourism. We’re really happy to be a part of it at such an early stage and to see how it goes.”
Enjoyed this story? Get more of the same delivered to your inbox. Sign up to
For the Better eNews before 30 June 2017 and you will go into the draw to win a free pair of Google cardboard courtesy of DPAW.
Experience WA's natural wonders in real life
WA has more than 28 million hectares of national and marine park. Yes, millions. Go see some of it yourself - RAC members save 50% off WA national park passes.
Get a rare insight into the work of WA's only 24/7 emergency rescue helicopter by taking a virtual flight on the RAC Rescue Experience. You'll fly on a rescue mission to a crash scene in the Wheatbelt to see our emergency services at work. The experience is best on a VR headset, but you can also download it to your mobile phone from Youtube and move the phone to view the scene.