You can now satisfy that travel bug, even during the pandemic. With the help of Peterborough-based virtual reality company, AVROD, you can visit historical hubs around the globe, without leaving home.
“We have 40 sites from all over the world, including some here in Canada,” said founder Jeremy Brooks.
“You can explore sites from almost 20 countries. We have Teotihuacan in Mexico, the temple of the Feathered Serpent. The Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the Colosseum, we have a T-Rex skeleton, a Pillbox bunker from World War II and things like that where you can jump around and explore.”
AVROD is short for Archaeological Virtual Reality Online Database. Brooks started to develop the platform while studying Archeology at Trent University in Peterborough, Ont., as a way to explore dig sites from afar. Now, the team is hoping to connect people to history, preserve the past and expand to bridge the gap in travel and tourism left by COVID-19 restrictions.
“We really want to bring it into a space where people are in their homes, but really feel like they are standing in awe of the history and archeology that is out there in the world and show people that even now, in a pandemic it is accessible,” said Brooks.
The virtual sites are created using images taken of the real-world location. That series of photographs is turned into a 3D replica. To visit the virtual locations you need a VR headset, a streaming app and an internet connection.
Brooks said AVROD would soon be launching for the Oculus Store and for Oculus Quest VR headsets.
These days, one of those stand-alone headsets will set you back about $400. The cost of your ‘virtual ticket’ to the Oval Office, an archeological site in Mongolia or maybe the Cave of Hands in Argentina.
“You can stand there, hold your hand up against this wall against the handprints from pre-history, and really even feel a connection to those people,” said Brooks.
He said they are working to achieve that connection in other ways as well.
“We’re creating a platform where people can interact with each other, share ideas, look at an object and create a comment in 3-dimensional space, which has never been done before,” he said.
While the technology takes you all over the world, AVROD is based in Peterborough, Ont. The platform was developed at The Innovation Cluster, a startup incubator that has a virtual reality maker’s space.
Innovation Cluster CEO, Michael Skinner, said he thinks we will see significant growth in online platforms.
“Because of the pandemic I think we will see a lot more virtual reality,” he said. “The pandemic has definitely put a lot more focus on it and at the end of the day you have a lot of people sitting at home, unable to travel and I think they are looking for something else and virtual reality could be a key piece to that.”
Skinner said the resources available at the Innovation Cluster will be significant for entrepreneurs looking to break into that market.
“It allows developers the ability to test their program on a number of different platforms without that significant initial investment,” he said.
Brooks said along with the historical sites and tourism potential they have also applied the technology to create nursing simulations for Trent University, using VR to create life-like practice scenarios.
He said they also have other ideas in the works, but that he couldn’t disclose the details just yet.
“What I can say is that we are constantly expanding to new destinations,” he said. “These technologies exist, the platforms exists and now it’s just our job to provide that for Canadians and people all over the world so they can get out and explore the world from home.”