Exploring the World through Virtual Reality Tours: A Partnership Between HistoryView.org and Metroplex360
By Elizabeth Parrish, KUT Austin – NPR
Prepare to embark on virtual journeys through museums, art galleries, historic sites, and more, all from the comfort of your local museum. HistoryView.org, headquartered in Boston, has teamed up with the Texas-based Metroplex360 to create immersive 3D tours of various cultural and historical landmarks.
The visionary co-founders behind HistoryView.org, Brian and Elizabeth, birthed the idea during Brian’s tenure as a real estate photographer when he crafted a virtual tour for a historic home he was selling. Elizabeth, a teacher, immediately recognized the educational potential of such virtual tours.
“I showed her the virtual tour, and she looked at me and said, ‘you know, we should make field trips out of this,'” recalled Brian. “The next day, we formed a Delaware corporation.”
HistoryView.org has already collaborated with 360° photographers across Texas to develop virtual tours of significant locations, including the NASA Shuttle Fuselage Trainer in Houston, the 12th Armored Division World War II Museum in Abilene, and the Museum for East Texas Culture in Palestine.
Metroplex360 is gearing up its team of photographers to capture even more captivating destinations. Chris Hickman, the founder of Metroplex360, shared their recent accomplishment, a virtual tour of Riscky’s Bar-B-Q in Dallas, Texas.
“This is one of the spaces that we’re excited about putting on HistoryView because it’s a historic tourist location, and I think it’s kind of a kitschy, fun way to start in Texas,” Hickman explained.
While their current focus is on the Dallas area, where Metroplex360 is headquartered, the grand ambition is to capture as much of Texas as possible.
“I think it’ll almost be like a strange little addiction of ours,” Hickman added with a chuckle. “We want to go spend all day 3D-scanning historical places. At least, that’s what I hope.”
One driving force behind these virtual tours is the belief that experiencing a place virtually can ignite a desire to visit it in person, thereby boosting tourism. However, the primary mission of HistoryView.org is to serve as an interactive educational tool for teachers.
Nicholas Clayton, a special education teacher in Victorville, California, attested to the myriad benefits of virtual tours in his classroom.
“It is very visually stimulating. A lot of my students learn through pictures and learn through a lot of different ways other than through traditional ways,” Clayton remarked. “Because they are special education students, they have a lot of different learning needs.”
Clayton, no stranger to using technology in education, highlighted the profound impact of interactive learning on both students and teachers.
“I’m a big nerd and techie, so I think that I go to the technology first and foremost, and I think that it becomes a better experience for me as a teacher as well,” Clayton shared.
Brian echoed Clayton’s sentiment, noting that they often receive positive feedback from teachers.
“Students don’t like to read. But then we put them in the VR headsets, and they go to the Rosa Parks Museum, and they start reading off the wall and asking ‘did MLK really say that quote?'” Brian recounted. “So it’s like we’re able to trick them into learning.”
Looking ahead, HistoryView.org and Metroplex360 have their sights set on featuring Austin’s capitol building as their next virtual tour. In the meantime, Brian encouraged teachers to send in suggestions for their next virtual exploration.