Creating Immersive Virtual Tours
Build your very own custom VR experiences with Google Tour Creator! Come and learn how your students can use Tour Creator to easily assemble their very own virtual 360 expeditions for use in the classroom.
Google Tour Creator is a new tool that uses the Poly 3D engine for VR and AR. It allows you to easily create 360 tours with multiple "chapters" and embedded text, images and audio.
How could you use this with your students?
Your turn to play...
The folder above contains a number of sample assets you can use to make your first Tour Creator projects.
The Uluru and Kata Tjuta folders contain images, text and audio files for adding to a tour of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in Central Australia. Feel free to use them (or make your own).
The Tour Creator Assets.zip file contains all these files in a single zip file. Feel free to take a copy
If you'd like to try using an actual 360 file (instead of a Streetview image from Maps) browse the collection above and download a couple to play with. (Open the photos, the use Shift-D to download a copy to your computer)
Adding audio to your Tours
A recent addition to Tour Creator is the ability to add audio to your 360 images. This open a huge range of possible uses in the classroom! Student can describe things, add narration, and even include a background (ambient) audio track to give the feel of actually being there.
The possibilities are endless. But there's a small catch. You cannot record the actual audio files in Tour Creator. You must create them outside of Tour Creator and then add them to your Tour.
This adds some additional complexity to adding audio, BUT I do like the way it forces students to be far more deliberate (and creative) with their narration tracks, and it teaches them useful multimedia production skills.
Record your audio in any external audio editor. Soundtrap is great for this because it just works in your browser, but you can use Audacity, Adobe Audition, or anything else capable of recording audio if you prefer. Export the finished product as an mp3 file and add to your tour.
PS: It's worth getting your students to write a script for when they record, rather than just winging it. The collaborative features in Google Docs is great for this. Get students to work in groups to plan and script their work in advance, then practice speaking it before they hit record!
Soundtrap is a great free audio editor that works in any browser.
Ambient audio tracks
Adding ambient sound really gives character to your Tours. If it's a street scene you can add the sound of a busy city street, or a beach scene with the sound of waves, or a restaurant with the sound of a crowd.
You can often find good ambient sound tracks simply by searching online with an appropriate search term like [busy restaurant soundtrack mp3] and you find sounds like this.
Some places you can find free audio files are...
- But a Google search is probably the best option (or record your own!)
A word of warning on audio
Some things to consider when using audio...
- When you add an ambient track and a narration track, there is currently no way to control the volume mix between the two. If your ambient track is too loud it can overpower the narration. Be mindful of this when you make your mp3 files.
- You may want to "cheat the system" a bit and add a sound effects track (or even music) to the narration when you record it. This multitrack recording technique is more work to produce, but opens up other interesting possibilities for adding media.
- I've found that sometimes you add audio, publish your Tour and the audio doesn't play for some reason. If this happens, just publish again and it usually fixes it.
- Build a Tour with at least 3 different scenes. Use your own 360 images if you have them. Otherwise use one of mine, or just use some 360s from Google's Streetview collection.
- Add a couple of Points of Interest (PoI) to each scene. Include a short blurb of text with information about each PoI, and images is appropriate.
- Remember, it's your first one. It doesn't have to be perfect!
- Try finding and adding an ambient soundtrack to your Tour
- Use Soundtrap (or your audio recorder of choice) to record a narration track introducing each scene. Save your narrations as mp3 files and add them to your Tour.
Publish your finished tour!
After you publish your Tour, share it with others.
See that URL after you publish? Copy it. Then go to the Google Form on the right, and fill in your name and the URL for your Tour. After you submit the form, you'll find your Tour in the list with everyone's work at the bottom of this page. Check it out!
If you're feeling brave, why not send your finished Tour out to Twitter or Facebook and show the world what you've made.
Some common questions about Tour Creator
How do I hear the audio files I added to my tour?
When the tour loads, go to the top right and tap the gearwheel icon. You'll see options to turn on the ambient and narration tracks. So turn them on. You should hear the ambient sound play, and the narration track will play over the top of it.
As you browse from scene to scene, the ambient track will continue playing. As you tap on place of interest, if they have audio narration they will play while the hotspot is active.
Where are the notes I added? I can't see them.
In the lower left, you'll see your avatar and a small information symbol beside the tour name. Just tap it to open the notes you added.
Tapping on the Points of Interest will take you directly to them.
Can I view these Tours with Cardboard?
Yes you can! Although it's still a little clunky just at the moment. Here's how...
- Click the share button below the Tour and copy the URL
- Get that URL to your phone - email it to yourself, Tweet it, Facebook it... however you do it is fine, just get it to your phone.
- Open the link to the Tour on your phone.
- Tap the fullscreen icon to go full screen
- Tap the Cardboard icon, then turn your phone sideways.
- Pop the phone into your Google Cardboard and you're good to go!
- use the press-button on Cardboard to navigate through each scene
My computer gets a little warm as I make these tours. Is that normal?
Working with VR, 3D and 360 images uses a browser technology called WebGL, and often places a higher than usual load on your computer's CPU, so yes, it may get a little warm. You may even find your fans come on to try and cool the machine down.
It's all perfectly normal. It's just your computers way of letting you know that it's working harder than it usually does when checking email and catching up on Facebook!
Don't worry, it's not going to explode or catch fire! I hope. :-)