VisitScotland launches Scotland virtual reality experience

A competition by Scotland’s national tourism organisation VisitScotland celebrating the expertise, skills and knowledge of Scotland’s academic institutions, and developed in collaboration with Interface, has produced a groundbreaking virtual reality app launched today.

People across the world can now instantly walk through the prehistoric village of Skara Brae in Orkney, soar high over Edinburgh Castle like a bird, journey into the depths of The Hollow Mountain of Ben Cruachan and experience the Northern Lights – all from the comfort of their own home, with the release of a new virtual reality app from VisitScotland.

ScotlandVR is a ground-breaking virtual travel experience that allows people, wherever they are in the world, to be immersed in Scotland’s remarkable attractions.

Launched today (February 28), it is hoped the ScotlandVR app, which is available for all Android and Apple users to download for free on Google Play and Apple Store, will incite emotion during those ‘I want to get away’ moments in life and inspire more people to discover Scotland for real.

Featuring state-of-the art 360˚ imagery and footage, users start their journey in a virtual glen complete with moo-ing Highland Cow, crackling fire and bellowing stag. From there, they can jump into a map of Scotland and experience 26 unique attractions covering every region of the country.

The whole environment can be experienced in Stereoscopic 3D when used with a Google Cardboard virtual reality headset, in 360˚ view using gyroscope phone technology or by touchscreen also in phone mode.

The Scotland VR app is a result of the collaborative effort and pioneering spirit of Scottish academic, technology and tourism sectors.

As part of the 2016 Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design, VisitScotland challenged young talent from Scotland’s academia to create an exciting, interactive digital product designed to inspire and motivate people to visit Scotland. The winners of the competition were a team from Edinburgh Napier University, led by Professor David Benyon and Dr Oli Mival who developed the concept for an innovative app in which to explore a virtual Scotland. The final ScotlandVR app was created by Edinburgh-based digital and creative agency, Whitespace in association with VisitScotland and Edinburgh Napier University.

The app launches with 26 attractions, but future phases of the software will see attractions added through refreshed content. The landmark locations for launch were chosen from set criteria including footfall, product diversity, online searches, showcasing attractions with innovative architecture and design and links to the current 2017 Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.

Research shows that 60% of searches for destination information come from mobile devices. This, coupled with virtual reality experiencing growth worldwide (forecasted numbers of VR users between now and 2018 set to grow by 400% to 170 million) creates a prime opportunity for Scotland to be discovered in a new and innovative way.  A recent report by Greenlight VR showed that travel and adventure VR content is the most sought after by consumers (74%), followed by movies and live-events.

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs said:

“This virtual reality app provides people across the globe with a window into Scotland’s fantastic attractions. They will experience 26 unique attractions covering every region of the country. It will, I hope, inspire more people to discover Scotland for real.

“In this, the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, there has never been a better time to come to Scotland and experience our world class destinations and historic buildings and monuments.

“A team from Edinburgh Napier University developed the concept for this app, it demonstrates the pioneering spirit and ingenuity of Scotland’s academic, technology and tourism sectors.”

Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland said:

“We are excited to be able to launch our first venture into the world of virtual reality. Far from being a fad or gimmick, VR is revolutionising the way people choose the destinations they might visit by allowing them to ‘try before they buy’ and learn more about the country in an unique and interactive way. 

“We have no doubt that once people get a taste of the spirit of Scotland or #ScotSpirit through ScotlandVR, they will be booking a holiday to experience our stunning landscapes and attractions in the flesh.”

Suzanne Dawson, Head of Sector Relationships at Interface, was one of the competition judges. She said:

“The VisitScotland competition has been a fantastic way of highlighting how Scotland’s top academic expertise can help turn an idea into an exciting reality.

“Collaborations such as this, show the potential opportunities for those working in the tourism sector, from the largest visitor attraction to the smallest B&B, and I hope that it encourages more partnerships with Scotland’s world-class academic expertise.”

ScotlandVR is now available to download from Google Play and Apple Stores. For more information, visit www.visitscotland.com/app