Virtual reality tours coming to recreational boating

The technology is becoming mainstream - making it easier than ever to create a virtual tour to differentiate your marketing

For potential buyers, a key selling point of the new Azimut 77s is the spacious interior with large windows that illuminate the cabin with natural light. However, to tour the saloon, sit at the helm station or visit the staterooms it may mean traveling long distances.

With virtual tours people can explore a boat from the comfort of their home using their computer, tablet or smartphone.

Several builders like Azimut and brokers including Denison Yacht Sales are taking the lead by diving into virtual-reality tours to differentiate themselves.

“This is a very exciting time in the boating industry. Virtual reality tours are changing our industry’s sales landscape by opening up new ways for clients to showcase and sell their boats” says Vincent Finetti, CEO of Prestige Vision.

There are three types of virtual experiences:

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Panorama

A Panorama provides a 360-degree view in which the user looks around and can zoom in, up or down from a fixed location. Suitable for open decks or boats with small interior space, they can be created very easily with a smartphone camera or custom cameras like the Bublcam. There are a variety of Mobile Apps such as Google Photoshere, Microsoft Photosynth, or 360 Panorama to create the finished product.

Virtual Tour

The next level is a virtual tour using multiple panoramic positions. This is great to show different parts of the boat, and enable the buyer to “walk” through an interior on an interactive tour.

A simple approach is to use a smartphone camera and Google photosphere, which posts your tour into Google maps. However, it can be hard to get sufficient light. See an example of a Townsend Bay Marine 54 from Swiftsure Yachts.

For a more professional video, you will need a multi-camera array such as a GoPro camera and software such as Kolor to stitch multiple locations together although you’ll pay around $1,700 to $2,000 for equipment. According to Garrett Schwartz, president of Yacht Profile, who trains brokers to create their own virtual tours “Anyone can do it. People think you need to be a professional, but it’s surprisingly easy with the latest GoPro to develop a high quality, visually appealing virtual tour. ”

If you are looking for help creating virtual tours, Prestige Vision and YachtProfile have deep experience in the space, provide photo editing and also add interactive elements – boat layout schematic, information hotspots and different views such as under seat storage. The cost for them to create a virtual tour starts around $75 and goes up from there depending on the size of the boat.

This also works well for boats that are not even yet built – by combining CGI images and a virtual tour, builders can show prospective buyers a boat, such as this Sabre 66 Dirigo before it even leaves the drawing board.

360 Video

360-degree video goes beyond static photos and immerses your buyers right into an on-the-water video experience. By combining video and full 360-sphere interaction, boats can be showcased in action - like a boat review or sea trial on steroids.

GoPro and Google are investing heavily in this new technology and have developed an innovative 360-degree camera arrays with 16 cameras that work together as one. To see this in action, watch this Itama 62 video.

Virtual tours are quickly becoming mainstream. We can explore most places on the planet with Google Street View, Facebook has now added 360 video into the Feed, 360 videos can be viewed on YouTube, and low cost consumer Virtual Reality (VR) headsets from Oculus, Samsung and Google that work with a smartphone are now here offering another level of immersion. As a result, the VR industry is expected to reach $150 billion by 2020.

All this is building expectations with buyers as they research a large investment like a luxury boat. If you have not considered VR in your marketing, I would strongly urge you to move this media to the top of your sales funnel.

Tim Claxton is a freelance marketing consultant, and periodically writes articles on boating, digital media and new technologies.

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