Welcome to your virtual tour.

I recently attended a session at Google Campus, courtesy of being an alumna of Squared Online. Oh, those were the days. It covered some of the innovative projects that Google has recently spearheaded in its work to help digitalise pretty much every other industry out there.

One of these has been ‘Google presents – Inside Abbey Road Studios’. This is a project through which the London-based recording studio was mapped out and turned into a virtual tour that made it available to audiences all around the world.

It hasn’t been the first time that a public space has become available 24/7 through digital. As the habit of getting in touch with the world through online first goes native, the number of artistic, cultural or political sights that will be able to provide a virtual experience will increase, too. That will make for an exciting and interactive future. Why so exciting?

Firstly, because art and culture will become accessible from everywhere in the world enabling us to explore sights that have marked our world history and culture from the comfort of our house, without the boundaries that are currently imposed by time, geography or finance.

Imagine sitting on the sofa on a Sunday afternoon, browsing through the galleries of The Louvre, stepping through the gates of Petra or digitally climbing your way to Machu Picchu. Enjoy it on your own or with your family; to satisfy your curiosity or prepare for the actual visit. How does that sound? To me, like a dream come true.

Secondly, because making world-renowned sites available through digital will help preserve them. Higher accessibility online and offline will mean higher exposure, enhanced awareness and hopefully proactiveness towards securing their future. Places such as Buckingham Palace, The Hermitage or The Museum of Modern Art already have their future secured but others that have not yet made it to the world table have a chance to do so by getting on the virtual radar.

Inventorying the world’s heritage through photography, video, 3D and digital is also a good way of safeguarding it. We don’t worry about losing our heritage as much today as we did in the past. However, as we continue to mourn the loss of the artefacts lost in the fire of Alexandria, during the Nazi plunder or – more recently – during the destruction of the Syrian heritage, securing a digital footprint of what we today take for granted is a very good way of ensuring that our past never gets erased again.

Thirdly, because it will educate us all on the richness of our world and, in turn, enhance cross-cultural communication and empathy. We live in a global world but our understanding of it is pretty much siloed through the culture that has shaped us. Is it wishful to think that we will be able to understand others better by having more access to the places that define their history? I certainly don’t think so.

And finally, the future is exciting as more and more services emerge to support the digitalisation of these spaces. Google has broken the ice and set an example, but the future will also belong to agencies that provide digital and virtual experience services as part of their offer. Most well-established branding or experiential agencies already provide digital, 3D and video services – what is needed is the vision to puzzle them together for this kind of work and roll out a pilot project. Any takers?

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