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Rahaman, H.; Champion, E.M.; Mcmeekin, D. 360-Panoramas for Historic Buildings. Encyclopedia. Available online: https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/46998 (accessed on 14 June 2024).
Rahaman H, Champion EM, Mcmeekin D. 360-Panoramas for Historic Buildings. Encyclopedia. Available at: https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/46998. Accessed June 14, 2024.
Rahaman, Hafizur, Erik Malcolm Champion, David Mcmeekin. "360-Panoramas for Historic Buildings" Encyclopedia, https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/46998 (accessed June 14, 2024).
Rahaman, H., Champion, E.M., & Mcmeekin, D. (2023, July 19). 360-Panoramas for Historic Buildings. In Encyclopedia. https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/46998
Rahaman, Hafizur, et al. "360-Panoramas for Historic Buildings." Encyclopedia. Web. 19 July, 2023.
360-Panoramas for Historic Buildings
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360-degree panorama tours such as Google Street View enable the virtual exploration of heritage sites and historic buildings. They demonstrate limited interaction and immersion across a range of platforms and devices, without the requirement of expensive virtual reality headsets, but typically do not integrate other media to leverage spatially richer ways to communicate the historical developments of architectural interiors and exteriors.

360-panoramas heritage virtual tour historic hotel

1. Introduction

A 360° virtual tour is analogous to Google Street View (GSV) for both indoor and outdoor environments. A series of 360° photographs are linked together to allow the online user to virtually ‘walk’ around and discover more about the surrounding spaces than using typical photographs. Using a mobile device, tablet, desktop, or virtual reality goggles, a user can navigate through the tour by simply clicking on ‘hot spots’ within the 360° panoramic photo.
The history of 360-panoramic tours can be traced back to the mid-1990s when the first virtual tour software was developed [1]. At that time, the technology was limited to static panoramic images that could be stitched together to create a 360-degree view of a particular location. With the advent of high-speed internet and advances in camera and software technology, it became possible to create more immersive and interactive 360-panoramic tours [2][3]. A 360° virtual tour provides a unique immersive sensation of “being there” and builds trust and confidence for remote visitors, helping them to interpret the site remotely and hopefully compel them to organize an eventual physical visit/tour [4][5][6].
That said, the 360-pano tour or 360-VR is not true ‘virtual reality’ [7] as it does not support the freedom of movement inside the virtual space and limits the visitors/users to moving only from one point to another point, predicated on where the photo was taken. A pano tour is a good option for applications requiring wider audience reach, more cost-effectiveness, or flexibility, while VR tours are more suitable for applications requiring a higher degree of immersion and interactivity.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact and has boosted the use and popularity of 360 VR tours. Studies from Sarkady et al. [8] and Rahim et al. [9] show that, while travel and in-person events have been restricted in many parts of the world, businesses and organizations have turned to virtual experiences to reach their audiences. Subsequently, 360-degree panoramas have appeared as an effective tool for providing immersive and interactive experiences for cultural heritage, tourism [10], and in particular for real-estate visualization [11].

2. Overview of Previous Studies and Research

The use of 360-panorama tours in the field of heritage interpretation has received growing attention in recent years, with numerous studies and research projects exploring the potential of this technology. Zeng et al. [5], El-Said et al. [12], and Kim et al. [13] explored the effectiveness of virtual heritage in engaging visitors and enhancing their learning experience, using 360-panorama tours as a case in point. Similar studies have been carried out by various researchers [14], [15] and [16] in museum settings, comparing the use of 360-panorama tours with traditional methods of interpretation, such as audio guides and static images. Shadiev et al. [17] found that virtual reality and 360-degree video applications in cultural tourism increased tourists’ experiential value and satisfaction. Studies [5][12][18][19][20] also suggested that 360-pano tours can be an effective tool for increasing access and engagement with heritage sites.
Authors such as Gafar et al. [21], Barkatov et al. [22], Shadiev et al. [17], and Pereira et al. [23] studied various software and online services in creating 360-panorama tours while exploring their accuracy and usefulness in providing up-to-date information about heritage sites. In most cases, these studies showcase and highlight the positive impact of 360-panorama in delivering valuable insights into better interpretation and engagement of the site [5][20][22][24].
Studies from Shehade et al. [25], Koehl et al. [26], and Boukerch et al. [3] have described the design and development of a 360-degree panoramic virtual reality system for heritage tourism that links a database of historical information with a 360-panorama tour of a heritage site. However, these studies mostly focused on ensuring the validity of the information rather than reporting any user experience [27] or presenting an optimized workflow. It is rare to have studies presenting a comparison of 360-pano tour software and services and presenting a comprehensive workflow for building interactive 360-VR tours for historic sites in one place. There is also limited research on user feedback and a paucity of useful showcases of audio, video, text, 3D-models, and photos integrated within the 360-panoramic tours.

3. The Current State of 360-Panorama Tour Technology and Software

A 360-panorama tour is a popular way to experience virtual tours of various places, including heritage sites and buildings. The technology behind 360-panorama tours involves capturing 360-degree photos and linking or embedding them with data to create an interactive tour experience.
There are several software solutions and online services available for creating 360-panorama tours, including professional tools for photography and multimedia, as well as DIY solutions for individuals and small businesses. These tools vary in their features and capabilities, ranging from basic photo stitching to more advanced options for creating interactive tours. Their ability to annotate text, images, plans, audio, and video within the 360-degree photos provides a rich interpretive layer, making 360-panorama tours a valuable tool for heritage professionals and associates.
One popular software option for creating 360-panorama tours is Adobe Photoshop, which provides advanced photo editing and stitching capabilities. Other software, such as Autopano, PTGui, and Kolor Autopano, also offers 360-pano tour creation, with features ranging from basic photo stitching to more advanced options for creating interactive tours with annotations and multimedia content. Several online platforms allow users to create and share 360-panorama tours, including Google Street View, RoundMe, and Kuula. These platforms offer a range of tools for creating and uploading 360-degree photos, such as annotating and linking them with multimedia content and publishing the final tour for others to explore. In addition to these tools, there are also DIY solutions available for individuals and small businesses, such as the Ricoh Theta camera and app, which allows users to easily capture and publish 360-degree photos and tours. These solutions can be an accessible and cost-effective option for those just starting out with 360-panorama tours.
Overall, the software and platforms involved in creating 360-panorama tours continue to evolve and improve, offering a range of options for different needs and skill levels. The next section presents a comparative study of some popular 360 software and online services.

4. Comparative Study of 360-Panorama Tour Software and Services

To have a clear understanding of the current offerings, researchers undertook an intensive online search and selected 50 candidates (desktop software and online services) and listed their origin and web address (Table 1). Data from Table 1 gives a snapshot of the 360-degree technology industry and its geographical distribution. Most of the companies are from the United States (14), followed by the UK (4), Canada (4), Spain (2), and other countries (25). This highlights the global reach and popularity of 360-degree technology.
Table 1. List of 360-panorama tour software and Services.
No. Name Website Location Online Desktop
1 360 VR Creator https://www.theasys.io/ USA  
2 360TOVISIT https://www.360tovisit.com USA  
3 3DCloud https://www.marxentlabs.com USA  
4 3Dtourbuzz https://www.tourbuzz.com/ Canada  
5 3DVISTA http://www.3dvista.com Spain  
6 ALLVR https://allvr.net/ Germany  
7 Asteroom https://www.asteroom.com/ USA  
8 Beamo www.beamo.ai/ South Korea  
9 BitVR https://reality-bit.com/ India  
10 Breakroom https://www.breakroom.net/ UK  
11 BRIO https://www.rentbrio.com/ Canada  
12 Build360Tours https://www.build360tours.com Netherlands  
13 CloudPano https://www.cloudpano.com/ USA  
14 CONCEPT3D https://concept3d.com/ USA  
15 CUPIX https://www.cupix.com/ USA, South Korea  
16 Cyango https://www.cyango.com Portugal  
17 Cyclomedia https://www.cyclomedia.com/ Netherland, Germany, USA  
18 DiveIn Studio https://www.divein.studio// Nicaragua  
19 Envisioneer https://www.cadsoft.com/ Canada, USA, Australia, France, China  
20 EvryPlace http://evryplace.com Poland  
21 EyeSpy360 https://www.eyespy360.com/ UK, Australia, USA  
22 Floorfy https://floorfy.com/ Spain, UK, USA  
23 Glo3D http://glo3d.com/ Canada  
24 GoThru https://gothru.co/ Canada  
25 hauzd https://hauzd.com/ Panama, USA  
26 HoloBuilder https://www.holobuilder.com/ USA  
27 HOLOFY https://www.holofy.io/ UK  
28 homeAR https://www.homear.io/ New Zealand  
29 iAriv https://www.iariv.com/ USA  
30 iGuide https://goiguide.com/ Canada  
31 inreal https://inreal-tech.com/ Germany  
32 iStaging https://www.istaging.com/ Taiwan  
33 Klapty https://www.klapty.com Switzerland  
34 Krpano https://krpano.com/ Austria  
35 Kuula https://kuula.co/page/realestate United States  
36 Lapentor https://lapentor.com United States  
37 MADE SNAPPY 360 https://www.madesnappy.co.uk/ UK  
38 Makevt https://makevt.com France  
39 Marzipano https://www.marzipano.net United States  
40 Matterport https://matterport.com/ USA  
41 Metareal https://www.metareal.com/ Canada  
42 My360 https://view.my360tours.com/ Canada  
43 Nodalview https://public.nodalview.com/en/ United States  
44 OcuMap https://ocumap.com USA  
45 Ocurus https://ocurus.com/ Mongolia  
46 Paneek https://www.goodfirms.co/software/paneek United States    
47 Pano2VR https://ggnome.com/pano2vr/ Germany  
48 Panoee https://panoee.com Singapore  
49 Panopedia https://www.panopedia.com Singapore  
50 PanoramaStudio https://www.tshsoft.com/ Germany  
51 Panoroo https://panoroo.com Singapore  
52 Panoskin https://www.panoskin.com USA  
53 Paradym https://www.paradym.com/ USA  
54 Peek https://www.peek.us/ USA  
55 Profusion360 https://www.profusion360.com/ USA  
56 Propvr https://www.propvr.in/ India  
57 Revir http://www.revir.co Singapore  
58 Revvis https://revvis.com/ Ireland  
59 RICOH360 https://www.ricoh360.com/ USA, UK, Singapore  
60 Roundme https://roundme.com Ireland  
61 RTV https://www.realtourvision.com/ USA  
62 ScaleView https://www.scaleview.fr/ France  
63 Scenics https://scenics.app Germany  
64 Seekbeak https://seekbeak.com/features/ Canada  
65 SENITO VR https://www.sentiovr.com/ Chile, India  
66 Shapespark https://www.shapespark.com/ Poland  
67 Simple Virtual Tour https://simplevirtualtour.it Germany  
68 Spinattic https://www.spinattic.com/ USA  
69 STUDIO 360 https://studio360tour.com/ Brazil  
70 Styldod https://www.styldod.com USA  
71 TELIPORTME https://teliportme.com/ Luxembourg  
72 Theasys https://www.theasys.io/ Ireland  
73 Thinglink https://www.thinglink.com/ USA  
74 THREE SIXTY TOURS https://threesixty.tours/ USA  
75 Threesixty.tours https://threesixty.tours/ Canada  
76 Threshold https://www.threshold360.com/product United States  
77 TogoTiki https://togotiki.com/ USA  
78 Touristl https://touristl.com Ukraine  
79 Tourmake https://www.tourmake.it/ Italy  
80 Tourweaver https://www.easypano.com/ China  
81 Tourwizard https://tourwizard.net UK  
82 TRANSPORTED https://www.transported.co/ Australia  
83 TrueTour https://visitingmedia.com USA  
84 TrueVirtualTours https://truevirtualtours.com Germany  
85 Uptale https://www.uptale.io/en/ Germany  
86 Urbanimmersive https://www.urbanimmersive.com/ Canada  
87 Viar360 https://www.viar360.com/product-features/ USA, Slovenia  
88 VIRTUAL TOUR CAFE https://www.virtualtourcafe.com USA  
89 Virtual Tours Creator https://virtualtourscreator.com.au Australia  
90 VirtualTourEasy https://virtualtoureasy.com Canada  
91 Viserez https://www.visrez.com/ Ireland  
92 VITILITY http://www.vtility.net/ Australia  
93 VPIX https://www.vpix360.com/ USA  
94 VR Tours https://www.yourvrtours.com/ UK  
95 Vtility http://www.vtility.net Australia  
96 WalkInto https://walkinto.in/ USA  
97 WeboBook https://webobook.com/ Bulgaria  
98 WONDA https://www.wondavr.com/ USA  
99 XUVER https://xuver.com/ Netherland  
100 Zillow https://www.zillow.com/ USA  
Next, researchers selected twenty popular online-based 360-pano tour development and hosting services from Table 1 and listed their offered features and prepared a comprehensive database. To conduct the selection, researchers reviewed user feedback and ratings from diverse platforms, including review websites, forums, and social media. This analysis allowed people to gauge the satisfaction levels and reputation of the shortlisted software solutions. Furthermore, researchers conducted a comprehensive comparative analysis of the features, functionalities, and capabilities of the shortlisted services. This evaluation enabled people to identify the top twenty software solutions that excelled in meeting criteria.
These platforms also provide numerous customization features, enhancing the user experience and increasing the engagement of virtual tours. For example, password protection allows creators to control access to their tours, while embedded multimedia elements such as voice, music, text, photos, URLs, and videos can enrich the content and make it more immersive. Additionally, users can incorporate floor plans and contact information, giving potential clients a comprehensive understanding of the property or location being showcased.
Many virtual tour platforms offer a range of additional features, such as hotspots (interactive elements that users click on to access more information or navigate to different areas within a virtual tour), floor plans, and virtual staging (digitally furnishing and decorating empty spaces or existing rooms in a virtual tour to make them visually appealing and help viewers envision the possibilities). When choosing a platform, it is important to consider which features are most valuable for your needs. Custom branding (incorporating a company’s or individual’s brand elements into the virtual tour to maintain a consistent brand identity and create a professional look) and white-labelling (removing or replacing the default branding of the virtual tour software or platform with the user’s own branding for a customized appearance) options, for example, are available with software such as Concept3D, enabling users to tailor the appearance of their virtual tours and host them on their own domains. Virtual staging services, provided by platforms such as Klapty, allow users to digitally furnish spaces, helping potential buyers or renters to visualize the possibilities. Interactive floor plans, offered by CloudPano and Floorfy, enhance spatial understanding while leading generation tools from Real Tour Vision and Virtual Tours Creator capture viewer contact information. Custom hotspots, as featured in Metareal and Lapentor, enable further exploration within the virtual tour, while live virtual tours, such as those offered by EyeSpy360, provide personalized experiences even when in-person visits are not possible.
Advanced features such as dollhouse views (3D representations of the entire property or area, providing a unique perspective by displaying the structure as if it were cut open, allowing viewers to see the spatial arrangement and layout) and measurement tools are also available on some platforms, further elevating the virtual tour experience. For instance, Matterport’s 3D dollhouse view provides users with a unique, interactive perspective of a space, while platforms such as Zillow 3D Home include measurement tools to help users gauge the dimensions of rooms and objects accurately.
Export file formats are diverse among these platforms, with many of them supporting HTML5, direct links, embed links, and social media sharing options. This flexibility allows users to share their virtual tours in multiple ways, increasing their reach and engagement. The majority of these platforms are compatible with a wide range of devices, including smartphones, tablets, and computers, ensuring that users can access, create, and share their virtual tours seamlessly across multiple platforms. This cross-device compatibility is crucial in today’s interconnected world, as it allows potential end users to explore virtual tours anytime and anywhere.
It is also evident that the fees charged by the virtual tour software vary greatly, ranging from $0/month to $333/month. For example, Virtual Tours Creator charges $19.99/month for its self-capture plan, while Real Tour Vision (RTV) charges $219 for its Software+10 credits plan. Similarly, fees for hosting services also vary, with some software providing a limited amount of storage for free, while other charges are based on the amount of storage used. For instance, CloudPano offers a basic package at $37 per month, making it accessible to smaller businesses and individual users, while Concept3D’s pricing starts at $1,500 per year, catering to larger enterprises or more demanding use cases. In conclusion, the pricing and hosting service offered by virtual tour software depends on the specific software, and the needs and budget of the user should be taken into consideration when choosing a virtual tour software.
All software programs support most camera types. In terms of supported file formats for importing, 3DVista can import JPG/JPEG, PNG, BMP, TIFF, and GIF files, as well as Live Panoramas and Adaptive HDR. Pano 2 VR supports JPEG, PNG, TIFF, PSD/PSB, OpenEXR, RGBE, MP4, and MOV. Besides JPG, TIFF, BigTIFF, PSD, BMP, PNG, and WEBP, PanoramaStudio 3 claims that they support more than 1180 RAW formats.
Regarding projected file formats, 3DVista supports 18 types, including equirectangular, cubic, rectilinear, cylindrical, fisheye, Mercator, and Albers equal area conical, among others. Pano 2 VR supports flat, cylindrical, spherical, perspective, stereographic, and fisheye projections. PanoramaStudio 3 supports cylindrical, spherical, and perspective projections. Revvis provides a first-person view, 3D view, plan view, and VR headset view. Krpano and Tourweaver do not provide enough data on projected file formats.
When it comes to adding various information/data to virtual tours, such as floor plans, contact information, voice/music, text, photos, URLs, and videos, the platforms offer a range of options. It seems that “3DVista" and “Pano 2 VR" both offer a wide range of features and support for different file types, including the ability to embed photos, texts, voice/music, URLs, and videos. They both also allow for embedding to a website through HTML 5 or WordPress. On the other hand, “PanoramaStudio" and “Revvis" appear to have limited features, with no ability to add contact information or embed videos.
Regarding other features, many software programs offer unlimited upload limits and allow for embedding tours onto websites. Some software programs, such as Krpano and Tourweaver, support dollhouse/axonometric views. Glo3D and Envisioneer offer photo enhancement tools, while others, such as Pano 2 VR and Tourweaver, allow for embedding voice/music and videos. Additionally, some software programs, such as 3DVista and Pano 2 VR, are compatible with VR headsets, while others, such as Revvis and Krpano, offer different viewing modes.
Prices for these programs vary, with some offering a 30-day free trial followed by a one-time fee for unlimited tours, while others operate on a subscription basis. Envisioneer offers several pricing plans depending on the user’s needs, ranging from a low-cost Personal Architect version to a more expensive Construction Suite version. Tourweaver has four different versions ranging in price from $699 to $1299. Hosting fees also vary, with 3DVista charging 99€/year and PanoramaStudio charging $69 for single-domain hosting and $199 for multi-domain hosting.
Overall, each platform has its own strengths and weaknesses, and the right platform for a given use case will depend on the specific needs and requirements of the user. It is important to carefully evaluate each platform and consider factors such as cost, supported file formats, camera support, and tour customization options when making a decision.

5. Linking Data or a Database with a 360-Panorama Tour

The diverse methods of linking a database with a 360-panorama tour enable the creation of rich and immersive experiences for users. API Integration serves as an effective approach for seamless data exchange, particularly when the database is hosted on a separate server or platform [28][29]. Embedding Database Content is suitable when the database and the tour are hosted on the same server, allowing for the direct access and display of the data [30][31]. However, database queries used to access large and complex databases require advanced programming skills. Interactive Map Integration and CSV or Spreadsheet Integration provide additional layers of interactivity and information display [32][33]. Virtual Reality Integration offers immersive exploration experiences, while Interactive Tour Stops provide context-specific information through multimedia elements and external web links [34]. Each method’s suitability depends on the type of database, the amount of data to be displayed, and the desired user experience.

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