Kyoto-based design studio ACTUAL Inc is releasing a new cloud service WHERENESS that will enable any user to create and share 360° virtual tours and experiences. The service was designed for museums and cultural attractions but is already finding a wider range of users. 360° media for virtual tours
The official website launched earlier this month and a beta version of the WHERENESS application will follow this spring.
WHERENESS is a web-based cloud application that enables users to transform 360° media into interactive tours and experiences, with no special skills required.
After uploading any 360° media, users can plot a route for visitors to follow using simple editing tools. Users can also embed text and two-dimensional images in the 360° space as they recreate an experience virtually.
WHERENESS works in a web browser and all data is saved in the cloud, meaning it can be accessed from anywhere with no locally stored files. Simultaneous online editing in teams is also being added as a feature.
Once edited, virtual experiences can be shared via URL and accessed through the web browser on any device such as a smartphone or PC. WHERENESS also supports sharing within closed groups and is the only service of its type to include paid ticketing options.
By enabling users to edit, host, and share virtual experiences in the cloud, WHERENESS offers an unprecedented way for any cultural organization or physical location to simultaneously archive and share its story with the world.
Background to the Launch 360° media for virtual tours
Worldwide there are currently more than 100,000 art museums (*1), 2,000 art festivals, and 296,000 galleries. Using an approximate measure of frequency (*2), this produces a total of around 1.95 million exhibitions held each year. Most of these exhibitions will be dismantled after a few weeks or months, with no way to preserve the experience for future generations.
In 2017, ACTUAL Inc. joined an exhibition archive project called ART360° (Art Three Sixty) that proposes a future in which past events and artistic works are recorded and available for playback using 360° media.
One reason 360° video archiving has yet to become widespread is the high cost of production. ACTUAL Inc. realized that by lowering the cost of editing, storing and distributing 360° media, it could give more people richer ways to experience the past. These experiences can change the lives of people in the present and even improve our world today. This realization led to the development of WHERENESS.
WHERENESS: An Overview
Three standout features of WHERENESS make it especially suitable for cultural organizations of all sizes:
Support for 360° video
Most applications for creating virtual tours (e.g. Street View) allow users to record and share still images only. WHERENESS enables users to upload 360° video so that experiences can include a time axis – ideal for installations and performances.
Most 360° video files are heavy and require long wait times and high processor power when editing. WHERENESS enables users to edit files in the cloud and export files more quickly, reducing time spent editing by around 75% while also cutting costs.
Income from ticket sales
Applications for creating virtual tours are typically designed for the real estate market and offer no way to charge viewers for access. WHERENESS includes paid ticketing options for virtual museum tours and in the future will enable actual sales of artworks and other objects in virtual space, creating additional income streams for users.
A Beta release is scheduled for spring 2023. WHERENESS is now accepting inquiries from potential Beta users.
*2 Based on 8 annual exhibitions per art museum; 10 exhibitions per art festival; 4 annual exhibitions per gallery.
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