Virtual tour earns swag of awards

28 September 2015

Our 360-degree virtual tour is proving a hit with the public and web experts alike, winning a number of top awards thanks in no small part to the ground-breaking technology used to create it.

Students sitting in the grafitti tunnel at the University of Sydney taken in a screen shot taken form the virtual tour.

Turning heads in the web world, Here has been named site of the day by a number of industry sites that acknowledge creative and innovative web platforms including Awwwards and the FWA (Favourite Website Awards) which has awarded it for both mobile and desktop site of the day.

It has also been recognised by the leading CSS Design Awards website honouring work that pushes the boundaries of creativity, functionality and usability.

The virtual tour provides an interactive, user-led experience of our Camperdown campus.

It takes users on an immersive, 360-degree journey across landmark sites including the iconic Quadrangle, graffiti tunnel and state-of-the-art Charles Perkins Centre hub. It also visits tourist hotspots including Sydney Harbour and Bondi beach to depict the complete University of Sydney-student experience.

Users can explore locations on the interactive tour by swiping or rotating a tablet or mobile device, following a narrative video, or clicking on selected hotspots to discover more details.

The tour was custom-built in collaboration with creative agency, The Monkeys, and Sydney production company, Collider.

The tour was filmed over four days with six GoPro cameras mounted to a special rig, then digitally 'stitched' together to create the 360-degree perspective.

It has been viewed by more than 41, 000 people since launching on 31 July, including viewers in the US, India, France, the UK and China.

University of Sydney Head of Marketing, Communications and Engagement Johanna Lowe said the tour provided the perfect platform to showcase our beautiful campus and buzzing culture to the world.

"It also helps our future students to make sense of the place as they prepare to make one of their biggest life decisions – where to study," she said.

"The tour is part of our broader digital transformation, and is focused on reaching our audiences the way they are communicating – on their mobile and tablet devices first.

"We set out to produce a tool that was not only best practice in higher education marketing, but was truly world-leading both in terms of innovation and technical functionality."

The virtual tour is just one of the exciting pieces of technology the University hopes to employ in the near future to show off our beautiful campus to the world.

The technical stuff

Our 360-degree virtual tour was built using the latest web technologies.

At the time of its development, which began in 2014, 360-degree video was in its infancy. There were a limited number of 360-degree video experiences on the web, YouTube had only just launched its 360-degree player, and there were only a handful of 360-degree cameras available in the market.

  • The tour was filmed using six GoPro cameras. A custom-made rig was designed to mount all six cameras in the correct configuration. (Testing was done using a V.360° camera.)
  • The 360-degree video experience was built on WebGL and Canvas (HTML5).
  • The tour utilises HTML5's Web Audio API to deliver music and sound on all devices.
  • Video and audio files were compiled into sprites to allow seamless navigation between film and interactive scenes.
  • XML was used for the data source and content.
  • The tour is powered by a LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP).
  • The tour is hosted and delivered by Amazon's cloud infrastructure using a content distribution network.

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