Attention City Leaders: Use Virtual Reality to Showcase Your City or Get Left Behind

When I think of virtual reality, I think about situations when my senses get immersed in a virtual world. It requires some sort of goggles and incredible sound via headphones or speakers. What I don’t think about is a gamer sitting in front of a game console, and flat screen TV stressed out that they are about to die. While I understand that gamer might think that the world they are navigating with their controller is real, that’s not what I think about when I think about virtual reality. For me, virtual reality is when your eyes and ears tell you that you are somewhere else, not because you are emotionally invested, but because what you are looking at or listening to tricks your mind into believing in something that is not real.

I recently saw a virtual reality production; Dublin Ireland was the setting as well as the focus. This production allowed me to walk through the streets of Dublin and gasp at its beauty and history. Many of us have accessed street view on Google Maps to travel down a road or two. However, the production that I saw regarding Dublin blew Google’s street view out of the water. I’m not kidding when I say that I can get lost exploring different Google street views throughout the world, but viewing this virtual reality production about Dublin was the first time I ever felt as if was there.

I spent about 30 minutes that day sitting on the couch with my wife as we walked Dublin’s streets. We would have spent more time, however, life interrupted and we had to go to my daughter’s piano recital. Not my favorite thing in the world, so it was not surprising that I couldn’t get Dublin out of my mind. I guess my wife was doing the same because when we got home several hours later, we both had the same idea – let’s take a vacation to Ireland. We leave in June, and I cannot wait.

While planning our trip, I explored other cities around Dublin from the comfort of my recliner. It was disappointing that I didn’t find any video as good as what Dublin had. I resorted to Google’s street view. However, this time it seemed antiquated; as if I was looking at old black and white pictures.

This got me wondering. Why don’t more cities create virtual reality productions? Is it the cost? Or, is it that they have not thought about it? At a time when cities are having trouble with their budgets, doesn’t it make sense that city leaders demand from those in charge of tourism to showcase their city with the latest virtual reality technology?

Some might think that a virtual reality tour of their city might negate the need for anyone to visit; the thought being that if anyone can feel like they are walking the streets of New York City, why would they visit? The answer is easy, people will want to visit for the same reason my wife and I are going to Dublin, and that’s because we want to touch and smell and see what’s just beyond the camera’s field of view. Did I mention that I can’t wait to see Dublin?