DIY VR: Around the World With Google

If you attended one of my sessions with any variation of this title, thank you and I hope the time you spent was valuable. Below are the resources I used and links to other materials to help you continue your learning about Google Tour Creator, Street View, and other virtual reality tools you and your students can use to do it yourself.

For those visiting who were not at a session, you are also welcome to use anything you find on this page (or the rest of the site), although some of it may not make sense without the live part of the presentation.

Either way, please feel free to contact me with questions, comments, suggestions for improving the materials, and/or examples of how you are using virtual reality with your students.

Let’s get started.

What is virtual reality (VR)?

Many people associate VR with expensive systems, elaborate software, and futuristic headsets. But according to Wikipedia, VR is any “interactive computer-generated experience taking place within a simulated environment”.

So in this session, we will be looking at something much simpler. VR that is inexpensive, easy to use, with experiences that you and your students can create in the classroom. With or without goggles

It’s what I call, DIY VR.

Google Street View

Street View is part of Google’s efforts to map the world by recording 360° images in locations both on and off of real streets. The image below is an example of Street View. Click (or tap on a mobile device) and drag in the picture to look around the location, including straight up and straight down.

Since 2007, Google has been using special camera arrays to capture 360° images of locations all over the world. In the past few years, they’ve taken the cameras off the road as well, into deserts on camels, through museums on trollies, and down trails into the Grand Canyon on a backpack.

The map on the Street View Explore page shows where Google has taken their cameras and a table on the same pages shows where they’re going next. But you don’t need Google’s budget to take your own Street View 360° images. See the section below on that part of DIY VR.

Google Tour Creator

Tour Creator is Google’s easy-to-use tool for building VR tours using those Street View images. The tours are similar to those you find in Google Expeditions and can include text, hot spots, and audio. You can even use the tours you create in the Expeditions interface.

But you don’t need Expeditions or even goggles to view a tour. Below you’ll see the visit to some ancient sites in Rome that I showed in the presentation. Click and hold to drag around the image. Click the i icon to see the text. Click the arrows at the bottom to move between locations.

To learn how to create your own tours, follow the steps in this Introduction to Tour Creator tutorial. The information on those pages is the essence of what we did during the session.

For many, many more examples, visit the Google Poly tours site. On that page, you can search by keyword, or click on the Main Menu in the upper left and browse by category in the lower part of the menu.

Making Your Own 360° VR Images

Although it takes a little more time and effort, you can also create Street View 360° images (sometimes called Photospheres) using the free Street View app for your Apple or Android smartphone. Check out the directions for making that happen.

For taking 360° images in one shot, there are many specialty cameras available, and which will also take 360 video. I recommend the Insta360 One X camera, which sells for around $400. Not cheap but very versatile, with great results, and much easier to use than the Street View of insta360 one x cameraOther options, such as the Theta series from Ricoh, start under $200. However, when shopping for a 360° camera, read the specifications carefully to make sure it will work with your computer and/or mobile device.

That’s the basics of DIY VR. There is still lots to explore, of course. The best way to learn what you can do with Tour Creator is to just jump right in and play. Better yet, give the tools to your students and challenge them to create something amazing.

And watch this site because DIY VR is only just getting started.