Building a Campus Tour Online

March 12, 1999

by Colin M. Witt

People who visit Baylor tell us they really like our campus, and we think it's one of our greatest assets. Unfortunately, not everyone who is interested in Baylor can come for a visit. We created an online campus tour to address just that problem, and bring a little bit of the Baylor campus to the Web.

In the fall of 1998, we decided to build an online campus tour to help give prospective students, alumni and others interested in Baylor a view of our campus from where they are.

We wanted to capture a part of what makes Baylor unique and present it online. Here's how we did it.

First, we worked with the Office of University Host to develop a flow for the tour that complements that traditional campus tours they offer every day. We wanted to be sure to cover areas of campus they emphasized, while providing a distinct technological experience tied to the online medium.

After experiencing the traditional campus tour, we outlined a plan for 11 tour venues to comprise our first campus tour online. These venues cover a wide range of campus areas, from Burleson Quadrangle and Founders Mall to Collins Hall to Jones Library and Armostrong Browning Library. We've even got the Marina and Floyd Casey Stadium.

Out of a desire for both high quality images and cross-platform standardization, we chose Apple Computer's Quicktime VR technology for this project. Quicktime VR takes flat images and stitches them together, creating the 360-degree effect we wanted.

To capture the images, we used a digital camera to streamline the process of going from live to disk. We used Kodak's DC260 camera, with 8MB Flash memory cards, which were easily able to hold a full site's photos.

We purchased Kaidan Technology's KiWi+ camera bracket, which allowed us to easily set up and capture photos at each location.

The images were transferred from the Flash cards to a Macintosh Powerbook 5300cs and a Macintosh Powerbook G3 Series to copy over the network to our VR-creation workstation, a Power Macintosh 9600. We stitched the images together and used Apple's Quicktime VR technology to create the panoramas.

Each site took about an hour and a half to capture, including the photography, image transfer, and stitching process. We took several sets of photos at each location to give us a variety of options for the tour.

Now, the tour is up, and you can see it at http://www.baylor.edu/~University_Host/tour/. We look forward to your feedback about the tour; send any ideas, problems, suggestions or questions to webmaster@pr.baylor.edu.

Some of the features we are planning to add to the second generation of the tour include more tour venues, more photos to accompany the tour descriptions, and audio narration from a virtual tour host. Your ideas and suggestions will help us make the tour more like our campus, and closer to what our visitors want to see.

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