VR travel and tour apps

The Financial Times has published an article entitled “Could this be the moment virtual-reality travel finally takes off?” (You may have to answer a survey to read the article):

“The cartoonish game is less R&R, “more a place of decompression as action”, says Andrew Eiche, chief technology officer at Vacation Simulator’s developer, Owlchemy Labs. He is sceptical that today’s VR headsets are powerful enough to deliver truly realistic recreations of places such as the Sistine Chapel. “Is it really any different to looking at it on a monitor?” he says. “You need to go beyond looking to acting — that is where VR really excels.”

Examples include https://grandtour.myswitzerland.com/ and https://www.virtualyosemite.org/ especially https://www.virtualyosemite.org/virtual-tour/

What are the best VR tours and travel apps? This is a small subset of the best VR apps (the best VR apps according to digital trends).

A company has also made a VR (well, Cinematic/360 VR) of Antarctica (“VR in the freezer”) that is touring Australian museums, and will tour internationally.


A travel and leisure online article has already suggested VR tours can help relieve the boredom of pandemic lockdowns:

But there is a way to get a little culture and education while you’re confined to your home. According to Fast Company, Google Arts & Culture teamed up with over 2500 museums and galleries around the world to bring anyone and everyone virtual tours and online exhibits of some of the most famous museums around the world..

Two months ago the Guardian reviewed the world’s best virtual museum and art gallery tours.

Generally these are 360 panoramas, not true VR, but there are convenient tools to help you create your own panoVR (cinematic VR).

Lifewire has listed “7 Great Virtual Reality Travel Experiences”. One example of note is the VR Museum of Fine Art.

There are also projects taking off using live guides through the web with a camera, or who take you on a tour of a real museum with a real but physically remote guide/curator so that museums can still be quasi-open during lockdown.

An example of remote tourism is by the Faroes Islands, a very isolated Scandinavian island nation. They also explain their project:

Via a mobile, tablet or PC, you can explore the Faroes’ rugged mountains, see close-up its cascading waterfalls and spot the traditional grass-roofed houses by interacting – live – with a local Faroese, who will act as your eyes and body on a virtual exploratory tour.
The local is equipped with a live video camera, allowing you to not only see views from an on-the-spot perspective, but also to control where and how they explore using a joypad to turn, walk, run or even jump!

Via a mobile, tablet or PC, you can explore the Faroes’ rugged mountains, see close-up its cascading waterfalls and spot the traditional grass-roofed houses by interacting – live – with a local Faroese, who will act as your eyes and body on a virtual exploratory tour.
The local is equipped with a live video camera, allowing you to not only see views from an on-the-spot perspective, but also to control where and how they explore using a joypad to turn, walk, run or even jump!

VR focus has an interesting article on the development of VR for tourism, and the Virtual Segovia project sounds like it is worth keeping tabs on.

Now before we look at the commercial VR content stores, there are cultural heritage organizations with VR tour/travel content. Some are available via Google .


An online portal of major European libraries and museum collections, they have vintage stereo VR and examples of how to create stories and lessons with the stereoVR prints.


For example, Google Earth and Google Earth Voyager (with sections on editors picks, games, layers, quizzes, nature, travel, education).

There is Google Earth VR https://arvr.google.com/earth/ for VIVE and OCULUS headsets (HMDs).

Even Google Streetview can be viewed in Google VR https://www.blog.google/products/google-vr/get-closer-look-street-view-google-earth-vr/

“The new version of Earth VR is available today for the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. And if you don’t have one of those systems, you can still check out Street View in VR with your phone—just download the Street View app for Daydream and Cardboard.”

https://artsandculture.google.com/ is a wonderful sight and also has scavenger hunts, at, for example the British Museum.

There are also “virtual tours” based on Google Street View. For example, you can “virtually” visit Chernobyl. Here is an abandoned roller coaster.

An open source alternative to Google Maps is Open Street Map (OSM). There is a youtube video explaining how OSM data can be used with WebVR (“2019: VR Map: Using OSM Data In a WebVR Environment VRmap on Github”) and the app vrmap can be downloaded via Github.

Online/VR Models for Cultural Tourism/Travel

You can also visit online and via VR headsets repositories of 3D models of buildings and landscapes.

The Smithsonian allows you to view tour and download 3D artefacts and has interesting content, such as the Virtual Tour and the VR Hangar.


But the biggest online 3D/VR repository is arguably Sketchfab. Sketchfab has a Cultural Heritage + History section.

Eg Hagios Aberkios (Theotokos) Monastery Church 9th from Cultural Heritage and History Top 10 – 2020 wk 21
Sketchfab also has a places and travel section.

CYARK is a volunteer organization that has scanned major cultural heritage monuments uses Sketchfab to present their models.

Minecraft VR

For something lighter, families can also visit Minecraft VR “PLUNGE INTO THIS NEW MINECRAFT DIMENSION ON OCULUS RIFT, WINDOWS MIXED REALITY, AND GEAR VR” and a trailer is on Youtube.


Commercial game companies like Ubisoft have explored creating escape game VR and virtual tours inside physical exhibitions such as

Assassin’s Creed VR – Temple of Anubis. Gamasutra has explained their design process for these VR escape rooms.

At XRDC in San Francisco today Ubisoft Dusseldorf’s Cyril Voiron took to the stage to talk a bit about his work on Ubisoft’s Escape Games, virtual reality experiences that challenge players to escape virtual puzzle rooms.”

NB Trotech exhibited a physical location VR game demo in 2018.

Like brains on your journeys? Not exactly tourism, but some VR games have an element of real-world tourism.

“Face all the horrors that the living and the dead can offer in this new VR adventure in The Walking Dead universe. Travel through the ruins of walker infested New Orleans as you fight, sneak, scavenge, and survive each day unraveling a city wide mystery within the iconic quarters. Encounter desperate factions and lone survivors who could be friend or foe. Whether you help others or take what you want by force, every choice you make has consequences. What kind of survivor will you be for the people of NOLA?”

Or do you want to explore alien worlds? “The latest update from Hello Games adds a whole host of much-requested features to No Man’s Sky, including full, end-to-end support for PlayStation VR.”

One can even “tour” medieval fantasy worlds, or at least the modifications (mods) that are created using the free game creation tools. Here I am referring to Skyrim VR. Can it handle mods? With certain caveats, yes (on PC that is). You can buy it on Steam. Requires Vive, Rift, Valve Index or Windows Mixed Reality. ($89.95 AUD)


Via stores with content for specific HMDs, you can also find VR travel locations. For example, the oculus store lists travel and tourism apps for the OCULUS Quest, RIFT, GO, Gear VR. Enter “travel” into the search bar for each device.

Oculus Rift/Rift S

For example for the Oculus Rift you can visit the “travel” Pantheon Tallinn, Rome Reborn, Patagonia or in Australia, “Claustral Canyon” in Sydney NSW (Rift, Rift S)


Enter the quest part of the Oculus website and search for travel.



Navigate to the Gear VR Section of the Oculus site and search for travel.

Specific Examples:

Google App store

Enter travel VR into the search bar or tour VR

  • Google Expeditions (free) The Expeditions app and Cardboard viewer and Cardboard Camera were built to bring immersive experiences to as many schools as possible.
  • Titans of Space Plus ($10) Titans of Space® is a short guided tour of our planets and a few stars in virtual reality. Works with Google Cardboard.

Apple App store (for Apple phones)

Viveport (HTC)

Viveport is an online app store for the primary VIVE and Oculus headsets/Windows and has some travel content VR apps

  • Mona Lisa: Beyond the Glass is the first virtual reality (VR) experience presented by Musée du Louvre. On view from October 24, 2019 to February 24, 2020 in the Napoléon Hall, this VR experience is an integral component of the museum’s landmark Leonardo da Vinci exhibition, which commemorates the 500th anniversary of da Vinci’s death in France. An extended home version of the VR experience is now available for download through VIVEPORT and other VR platforms, including mobile VR on iOS and Android, for audiences across the globe.
  • AWAVENA “For the Amazonian Yawanawa, ‘medicine’ has the power to travel you in a vision to a place you have never been. Hushahu, the first woman shaman of the Yawanawa uses VR like medicine to open a portal to another way of knowing. This stunning VR experience, directed by the legendary Australian artist Lynette Wallworth, follows her Emmy Award-winning VR film “Collisions.””
  • Church art of Sweden.
  • A Glimpse into China.
  • Virtual Touring of DunHuang: Mogao Cave 61
  • MasterWorks: Journey Through History “Travel to three continents and visit some of the world’s most amazing places that span over 3000 years of human history. Discover the fate of the ancient capital of Thailand, the mysteries of a pre-Incan temple in the Peruvian Andes, the astonishing Native American cliff dwellings of Colorado, and the monument [al stone carvings of Mt Rushmore
  • “in South Dakota. The MasterWorks Museum transports you to four fully explorable environments where you can collect artifacts and learn from archaeologists and scientists as you unravel the mysteries of who built these amazing places and learn about the challenges they face today in a rapidly changing climate.” [now supports Tobii Eye-Tracking!]
  • The Holy City Documentary
  • Nefertari: Journey to Eternity
  • VR Angkor Wat Guided Tour – Cambodia

Current HMD costs/availability

Don’t have a suitable Head Mounted Display? Choice au have a useful guide.

Google Daydream standalone or smartphone VR

  1. Google Daydream View runs with an android phone (Galaxy, Pixel, Moto, LG, Zenfone etc) costing around $330-360 AUD on eBay
  2. Google Daydream Standalone VR (coming soon)

Rethinking Virtual Places

I have written a book on the above which looks like (touch wood) will go into production.

I have about 30 images in the planned book but am wondering if I can or should place there an image (8×11 inches, landscape orientation or portrait if there is an area for the cover page text). Do any of the below look ok? Or should I ask a game company for screenshot permission?

Chapter titles are:

1 A Potted History of Virtual Reality
2 Dead, Dying, Failed Worlds
3 Architecture: Places Without People
4 Theories of Place & Cyberspace
5 Rats & Goosebumps-Mind, Body & Embodiment
6 Games are not Interactive Places
7 Do Serious Gamers Learn From Place?
8 Cultural Places
9 Evaluating Sense of Place, Virtual Places & Virtual Worlds
10 Place-Making Interfaces & Platforms
11 Conclusion

Initial image: Microsoft HoloLens in the Duyfken showing mixed reality maps and 3D models (Mafkereseb Bekele PhD project); Ikrom Nishanbaev and Susan at Ballarat Heritage Weekend, Ballarat Town Hall; Ikrom and public member, Ballarat; the HoloLens demo’d at the WA State Archives..

free Critical Gaming eBook for 7 days

Critical Gaming: Interactive History and Virtual Heritage  (2015 edition) is in a Routledge campaign for May (2020), which allows anyone to register and get free access to the book (via this link) for 7 days. After this 7-day period, they can buy a copy for £10/$15!  *Trust me this is a lot cheaper than before!

Also check out the official Routledge History, Heritage Studies etc. Twitter page

Is there a catch? I honestly don’t know but don’t think so!

Virtual Heritage Book Proposal Reviewers

If you’d like to be suggested as a reviewer for an edited book proposal we will send to Routledge on virtual heritage (a concise guide) please let me know and I will tell the Routledge editor (I won’t know who the final chosen reviewers will be and I’d rather not re-bother the usual suspects) … with the authors, we are deciding whether to write a very concise 30,000 words or a normal 80,000-word book proposal (but the latter would be more expensive for university students, the primary audience).

Calls for articles in 2020

ETC press: Well Played

Special Issue Call for Proposals: Well Played: Playable Theatre: For this special issue we invite experiential play-throughs, theoretical papers, critical analyses, and post-mortems by practitioners, across domains from around the world, that explore the many facets of live, interactive experiences. As an interdisciplinary issue, we welcome researchers and creators from theatre, digital and analog game studies, performance studies and related disciplines.

All submissions are 31 May 2020. All submissions and questions should be sent to: well-played (at) lists (dot) andrew (dot) cmu (dot) edu

Change over time Journal

The concept of “integrity” is central to the organizing principles and values of heritage conservation and is frequently evoked in international charters, conventions, and official recommendations. Generally speaking, integrity refers to the wholeness or intactness of a tangible object, place, or property and is a measure by which UNESCO determines the Outstanding Universal Value of a site.1 As a guiding principle of conservation practice, the concept of integrity has evolved from 19th century ideas of the artist’s intent, which located integrity in a moment in time (Viollet le Duc), to 21st century framings of integrity as an emergent condition as proposed by the 2005 Faro Framework Convention which suggests that integrity is neither fixed nor static but is understood through a process of interpreting, respecting, and negotiating complex, and at times, contentious values. Abstracts of 200-300 words are due 5 June 2020. Authors will be notified of provisional paper acceptance by early July 2017. Final manuscript submissions will be due 3 January 2021.

MIT Presence

Guest Editors: GunasekaranManogaran, Hassan Qudrat-Ulla, Ching-Hsien Hsu, Qin Xin Paper Submission Deadline 25-08-2020; Author notification 15-11-2020; Revised papers submission 25-01-2021; Final Acceptance 30-03-2021


ACM Journal on Computing and Cultural Heritage – emerging computational and analytical methods and technologies with archival practice (including record keeping), and their consequences for historical, social, scientific, and cultural research engagement with archives. We want to identify potential in these areas and examine the new questions that they can provoke. At the same time, we aim to address the questions and concerns scholarship is raising about issues of interpretation raised by such methods, and in particular the challenges of producing quality – meaning, knowledge and value – from quantity, tracing data and analytic provenance across complex knowledge production ecosystems, and addressing data privacy and other ethical issues.

World History Connected

World History Connected is seeking papers for its next three issues 17.2 ( June 2020), 17. 3  (October, 2020) and 18.1, (February 2021), for special sections that will address new research on, and fresh approaches to, the teaching of 1) the place of the Classical World in World History, from the militarization of Roman elephants to the concept of the Axial Age (deadline for submissions is April  6, 2020); (2) themes in Southeast Asia in World History from Lidar to maritime subjects (deadline for submissions is August 3, 2020) and 3) Games and Simulations in World History, from the use of historical content, to the process of construction and marketing, to use in the classroom (deadline for submissions is November 2, 2020).





Open Access publications

I am often asked to mail commercial books, sorry I normally have to refuse. However, there are recent-ish publications that are open access. allowed via institutional repositories or were free to download, that I have written down here:

Open access or available articles, chapters, etc


  1. Champion, E. (2012). (). Game Mods: Design, Theory and Criticism, Pittsburgh: Entertainment Technology Center Press. 978-1-300-54061-8. URL: http://www.etc.cmu.edu/etcpress/content/game-mods

Book Chapters

  1. Champion, E. (2020). Games People Dig: Are They Archaeological Experiences, Systems, or Arguments? In S. Hageneuer (Ed.), Communicating the Past in the Digital Age: Proceedings of the International Conference on Digital Methods in Teaching and Learning in Archaeology (12-13 October 2018) (pp. 13-25). London: Ubiquity. https://www.ubiquitypress.com/site/chapters/10.5334/bch.b/
  2. Champion, E. (2019). From Historical Models to Virtual Heritage Simulations. In P. Kuroczyński, M. Pfarr-Harfst, & S. Münster (Eds.), Der Modelle Tugend 2.0 Digitale 3D-Rekonstruktion als virtueller Raum der architekturhistorischen Forschung Computing in Art and Architecture (pp. 337-351). Heidelberg, Germany: arthistoricum.net. https://doi.org/10.11588/arthistoricum.515
  3. Champion, E. (2017). “Single White Looter: Have Whip, Will Travel” in Angus A.A. Mol; Csilla E. Ariese-Vandemeulebroucke; Krijn H.J. Boom; Aris Politopoulos, (Eds.)., The Interactive Past: Archaeology, Heritage, and Video Games, Sidestone Press, pp.107-122. URL: http://www.oxbowbooks.com/oxbow/the-interactive-past-50944.html ISBN: 9789088904370.

Journal articles

  1. Rahaman, H., & Champion, E. (2019). To 3D or Not 3D: Choosing a Photogrammetry Workflow for Cultural Heritage Groups. Heritage, 2(3), 1835-1851. Retrieved from https://www.mdpi.com/2571-9408/2/3/112
  2. Champion, E., & Rahaman, H. (2019). 3D Digital Heritage Models as Sustainable Scholarly Resources, Sustainability: Natural Sciences in Archaeology & Cultural Heritage, 11(8). MDPI. Editor, Ioannis Liritzis. Open Access. Invited article. https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/11/8/2425
  3. Nishanbaev, I., Champion, E., & McMeekin, D. A. (2019). A Survey of Geospatial Semantic Web for Cultural Heritage. Heritage, 2(2), 1471-1498. https://doi.org/10.3390/heritage2020093
  4. Bekele, M., & Champion, E. (2019). A Comparison of Immersive Realities and Interaction Methods: Cultural Learning in Virtual Heritage. Frontiers in Robotics and AI | Virtual Environments: Emergent Technologies for Cultural Heritage and Tourism Innovation. doi:10.3389/frobt.2019.00091
  5. Champion, E. (2017). Bringing Your A-Game to Digital Archaeology: Issues with Serious Games and Virtual Heritage and What We Can Do About It. SAA Archaeological Record: Forum on Digital Games & Archaeology, 17 No.2 (special section: Video Games and Archaeology: part two issue), pp. 24-27. March issue. URL: http://www.saa.org/Portals/0/Record_March_2017.pdf
  6. Champion, E. (2016). A 3D PEDAGOGICAL HERITAGE TOOL USING GAME TECHNOLOGY. International Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology & Archaeometry, (special issue, selection of VAMCT2015 conference papers). International Journal MAA (ISI Arts & Humanities Citation Index, Thomson Reuters, USA; Scopus) Vol.16, No.5, pp. 63-72.URL: http://maajournal.com/Issues2016e.php DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.204967
  7. Champion, E. (2016). Worldfulness, Role-enrichment & Moving Rituals: Design Ideas for CRPGs. Transactions of the Digital Games Research Association (ToDIGRA), Volume 2 Issue 3 (special issue, “Diversity of play: Games – Cultures – Identities” selected DiGRA2015 conference papers). URL: http://todigra.org/index.php/todigra/index
  8. Champion, E. M. (2016). Digital humanities is text heavy, visualization light, and simulation poor. Digital Scholarship in the Humanities (DH2015 Special issue). DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/llc/fqw053 URL: http://dsh.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2016/11/07/llc.fqw053
  9. Champion, E. (2016). Entertaining the Similarities and Distinctions between Serious Games and Virtual Heritage Projects. Special Issue in the Journal of Entertainment Computing on the theme of Entertainment in Serious Games. Vol. 14, May: 67–74. Elsevier. Online. DOI: 1016/j.entcom.2015.11.003. PDF available at Research Gate: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/284930065_Entertaining_The_Similarities_And_Distinctions_Between_Serious_Games_and_Virtual_Heritage_Projects
  10. Champion, E. (2015). Defining Cultural Agents for Virtual Heritage Environments. Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments-Special Issue on “Immersive and Living Virtual Heritage: Agents and Enhanced Environments,” Summer 2015, Vol. 24, No. 3: 179–186, MIT Press. URL: http://www.mitpressjournals.org/toc/pres/24/3 PDF available at Research Gate: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/284930065_Entertaining_The_Similarities_And_Distinctions_Between_Serious_Games_and_Virtual_Heritage_Projects

Conference paper

  1. Champion, E. (2016). Worldfulness, Role-enrichment & Moving Rituals: Design Ideas for CRPGs. Transactions of the Digital Games Research Association (ToDIGRA), Volume 2 Issue 3 (special issue, “Diversity of play: Games – Cultures – Identities” selected DiGRA2015 conference papers). URL: http://todigra.org/index.php/todigra/index