As a child of the 70’s and 80’s, I remember gathering with other families from the neighbourhood in living rooms to watch (what seemed an endless night of) slides. Exotic destinations were presented as vivid and colourful images and would flash up larger than life. These images, and their stories, filled my head with dreams of traveling and sharing my adventures with others as I grew up. Today, I share my travel pictures with others, but with my 360 camera, I can invite the viewer join me there. Sharing a 360 selfie online I am inviting others to stand with me, immersed in the whole environment – all without leaving their home. Virtual reality, and in particular 360 photography, is enabling this new kind of selfie. In the 360-degree selfie a ‘virtual tourist’ can visit, in personal and immersive detail, the world you’re standing in.
When viewing any snapshot or selfie, we are taken on a journey to that location. Whether that is a typical selfie of an outstretched arm in a bar or a sun-drenched beach on a tropical island, our brains automatically connect us with that picture. It’s a simple cognitive reaction. We imagine what it’s like to be there. This places 360 photography in a unique position to provide virtual tourism opportunities, because our 360 selfies provide a more immersible experience and you can imagine yourself being there.
Hard-baked into our social platforms, like Google Maps, YouTube and Facebook, are the means to get our travel experience out to a wide audience. On a recent trip to Japan I visited Kuzuryū Shrine Hongū in Hakone. The area was stunning, and I came across a beautiful koi pond. I took a quick 360 selfie and shared it to Google Maps. Since visiting, less than a year ago, over 210,000 have viewed and shared that 360 selfie moment. The opportunities for promotion of less travelled locations are as endless as there are travellers in the world. An article by The Conversation suggests a VR experience encourages people to visit these locations. This is a big reason I love 360 video and photography. I’m encouraging people to get out there and experience the world, and if not, at least 360 selfies are providing the opportunity to experience destinations without even having to leave your own bedroom.