Tourgether360: How VR can change the way we explore the world

Tourgether360: How VR can change the way we explore the world

By SMU City Perspectives team

Published 7 September, 2023


Many people are trying to build a better future. In the real world, you need to deliver on this, or your business goes belly up. In the world of research, even if you end up with something that doesn't make any money if the results are innovative enough, then this is enough to change the direction of the future and business. I don't know of a better way of experiencing the future than to try to invent it yourself.

Tony Tang

Associate Professor of Computer Science, Singapore Management University

In brief

  1. With its life-like and immersive qualities, Virtual Reality (VR) could transform experience-based industries like tourism, cinema and education.
  2. Users of Tourgether360, a video tool that combines VR with videos taken in every direction at one time, can go on virtual holidays with friends, experience music concerts from home, or even learn about history from a first-person perspective.
  3. To implement VR effectively, one first needs to understand their user’s needs, and discern how to create and curate content in a way that is optimised for the experience. 

Virtual Reality, a computer-generated simulation of physical environments, is not an idea out of a science fiction film, but a current reality we are living in. With the prevalence of devices like the Samsung Gear VR and the Oculus Rift, VR experiences have become widely accessible through smart devices and video game consoles. Different industries have begun exploring the use of VR technology in their fields. VR has helped enhance training in the medical, space and military fields - letting trainees go through complex situations and scenarios with minimal risk.

Tony Tang, Associate Professor of Computer Science, is contributing to the space through this research and development of a collaborative VR program called Tourgether360; a platform that allows multiple people to explore virtual locations together. In this article, he shares how this tool could enhance tourism, its potential applications in other industries, and how VR technology can be optimised to create the best immersive experiences.

How Tourgether360 works 

Tourgether360 is a video tool that provides shared virtual experiences where users can explore different parts of the world. Still in its prototype stage, the programme was designed to generate shared virtual experiences using 360 videos, which are videos where a view in every direction is recorded at the same time. 

One of the key features of Tourgether360 is its collaborative experience. By uploading existing 360 videos from video platforms like YouTube onto the Tourgether360 platform, multiple users can interact with these virtual environments simultaneously. Each user can explore the ins and outs of these locations both with others and alone, and highlight points of interest to revisit. 

Transforming immersive experiences

Given its collaborative and immersive features, Tourgether360 can be applied to different experience-based industries, tourism being one example. According to Prof Tang, Tourgether360 can act as a complementary platform to physical tourism by giving users a preview of their destination and helping them plan their trips better. It also opens up opportunities for people to explore physical spaces that they might be unable or find difficult to visit or feel uncomfortable in, increasing accessibility of spaces.

As an example, Prof Tang shares:
“For someone on the autism spectrum, the sensory experiences of these unfamiliar places can be very overwhelming, especially places that have a lot of lights and sounds. A VR simulation could dull a lot of the stimuli for a person on the spectrum, allowing them to control the overwhelming aspects of it, all while allowing others to experience the new place with them.”

VR technology could also change the way cinema is consumed by providing movie-goers with a personalised experience. Filmmakers would be able to go beyond single-plot narratives and with the help of VR, allow each individual to explore different scenes and character perspectives while watching the same movie.

Live entertainment such as music performances is another area where this technology can be applied. “Getting tickets and being able to go to concerts can be expensive or impossible,” says Prof Tang. “With Tourgether360, one could capture that experience and allow others to quasi-experience it.” While not the same as experiencing the concert in real life, it does provide an approximation of it for those who can not be there in person.

Finally, educational institutions can consider using technologies like Tourgether360 to help students visualise concepts and simulate situations that would be difficult to envision otherwise. Virtual field trips can allow them to travel to different parts of the world without leaving their classroom, go back in time to experience ancient civilisations and visualise abstract concepts of gravity or space-time.

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Optimising VR experiences

According to Prof Tang, there are a few points to keep in mind when implementing VR tools like Tourgether360:

1. Curate content: Having cameras on smartphones has facilitated an abundance of video content. However, the challenge lies in curating all this material into compelling and engaging experiences that people would want to see. The difficulty is in discerning meaningful and valuable content from the surplus, ensuring that users' time is well-spent.

2. Create meaningful experiences for engagement: While platforms like TikTok have adeptly curated content through algorithm-driven swiping, they often cater to short-term and individualistic desires, offering quick bites of content. In contrast, technology like Tourgether360 seeks to offer more immersive and longer-form experiences, focusing on shared engagement rather than fleeting individual interactions.

3. Identify real needs not served by AV technology now:  The challenges of successful VR implementation do not solely lie in the technology itself, but in identifying genuine needs and purposes for its application. Educators, for instance, need to determine how this technology can support their teaching objectives in ways that their current approach does not allow. In some cases, a simple video would suffice in conveying the information, while other situations might call for a more immersive VR experience. 

4. Take a user-centred approach: The successful design of such technologies hinges on understanding the needs, capabilities, and desired workflows of those who will use such technologies. Incorporating this understanding deeply into the design process, where these users are repeatedly asked for feedback about the design, and then incorporating their feedback into the design, is critical to successful design. By addressing these real needs and objectives early on, and throughout the process, businesses, educators and other VR implementers can build effective and targeted experiences.

According to Prof Tang, more research and development needs to be done with this technology to build the future. He hopes to see more research put into creating VR innovations that can transform the way society operates.

“In the world of research, the gap between failure and success is much wider. So you can end up creating something that does not make any money, but if it was interesting enough, then that would change the direction of the business,” says Prof Tang. “I don't know what better way of experiencing the future than to try to invent it yourself.”

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Methodology & References
  1. Alcanja, D. (Feb 2021). Virtual Reality Applications: 10 Industries Using Virtual Reality in 2023. Retrieved from
  2. Tang, A., Kumar, K., Pretski, L., and Li, J. Tourgether 360: Collaborative Exploration of 360 Tour Videos using Pseudo-Spatial Navigation. Retrieved from
  3. Chillingworth, A. (May 2022). What is 360 Video, and Is It Worth Using in Your Content?. Retrieved from