How To Create A 360 Degree Panoramic Tour For Second Life Destinations

This is the third tutorial in the series on creating 360 degree panoramas for Second Life. The other two tutorials are perhaps unimaginatively titled:
The first of in the series showed how to use two different free apps, Hugin and ICE to stitch Second Life images into a panoramic view. 

Part 2 covered how to add the necassary metadata to the panoramic image, how to preview the image before uploading it, how to upload it to Facebook, and then how to embed it on a blog.

In this tutorial we'll show how to create a 360 degree panoramic tour for Second Life destinations. The idea is to seamlessly move from one panoramic view to another, and to include clickable areas that reveal information or images.

What Is A 360 Degree Panoramic Tour?

A 360 degree panoramic tour can be a unique way to represent a Second Life destination, or a group of destinations to anyone who may be unfamiliar with your inworld content, therefore encouraging them to visit - or just enjoy the tour. These tours can usually be embedded or linked to in a blog or shared on social media.

Take a look at the above example to see how tours work in practise. Click on the < > arrows to move from one scene to another and click on icons visible in the scenes to see what they do. The cog icon to the top right toggles audio files on and off. To get  a much better view  visit the tour on Google Tours and go full screen.

There is software available which can be used to create panoramic tours, but they tend to be expensive and they present the problem of how to upload and display the completed tour on a website. For many Second Life blog or website owners this approach is clearly overkill, particularly as using an online service is much simpler and less costly.

Rather than using software there are online platforms that can be used to create panoramic tours, each one coming with their own set of pros and cons - and price ranges. A happy compromise is to use the free Google's Tour Creator, which is what we'll do here.

We assume you already have a Google account and are signed into it, and have a number of 360 panoramic views to create the tour with.

The subect of the tour we're going to create here is The Pulse, a Second Life music venue and a favourite haunt of mine.

Creating a 360 Degree Panoramic Tour with Google's Tour Creator

1/ This is the landing page of Google's Tour Creator. Click on the Get Started button.

2/ On the new page that opens hit the New tour button.

3/ In the title space add the name of the tour. There is also a description box. Click on Select an image to navigate to a cover pic (highlighted above in green). Images can also be dragged to this part of the screen.

4/ When you're ready hit Create, highlighted in red.

5/ This page will open. Ignore the Street View section and hit Upload instead.

6/ This page will open. Either drag the first 360 degree panoramic image to the space, or hit Select a 360 degree Image then navigate to its location on your hard drive and upload it. You'll then be able to see the image as a 360 degree view.

 7/ Towards the bottom left of the uploaded image is an option to select the starting view. Click on the icon then drag and rotate to the starting view you want.

8/ When you're ready hit Save.

Adding Ambient Sound To The First Panorama

1/ To the right of the panoramic view is a panel. There is an area for the name of the first panorama and a description. Beneath that there is an audio icon, (highlighted in red). Click this to add a sound file. Since The Pulse is a Second Life club, music would be a good option.

2/ Once the audio file has uploaded this window will appear. Click Add. The audio is now added to the first section of the tour.

Adding An Image To The First Panorama

1/ Under the audio icon there is an Add point of interest option. Click on this. An icon will appear over the panorama. Drag it to where you want it to appear in the scene.

2/ Add a title for the image and a description in the panel to the right of the panorama scene. Now hit the image icon, highlighted in red.

3/ Navigate to the image to upload it or drag it to the Drop an image here space.

4/ Once the image has uploaded hit Add.

5/ The image will now appear over the panoramic view. The blue squares around the image can be used to resize it. Once you're happy with the size of the image. click away from it to close it.

 6/ An image icon will be visible over the panoramic view, and when this is clicked the uploaded image will open. The icon can be repositioned when dragged.

Adding Information To An Area Of The Panorama

1/ In the panel to the right click on Add point of interest again.

2/ Click on the panorama image where you want the information icon to appear. This of course should be a spot relevant to the information.

3/ In the side panel add a title for the information, then add the text. Click away from the side panel when you're done.

4/ The side panel will now look something like the above, with the image and text information areas collapsed.

5/ The information icon can be dragged into position if needed.

Adding More Scenes

Under the panoramic image is the option to add another scene (or another 360 degree panoramic image) to the tour. Click on Add scene then repeat all of the above steps. Keep on adding more scenes, audio files, images and information until your tour is complete. For the tour of The Pulse six scenes were added.

Publishing the Tour

1/ Towards the top right of the panoramic image is a Publish button. When your tour is complete click on the button.

2/ This small window will appear giving the choice of making the tour public or private. When you're ready hit Publish.

3/ When the tour has been published to Google Tour Creator this window will show, with the url of the tour and an option to view it for the first time. Click Done to close this window.  Your tour is now complete and ready to be viewed and shared.

4/ The next time you visit Google Tour Creator and hit the Get Started button you'll see the above. Hit Draft to edit the tour. There should be a row of white vertical dots to the right of your tour thumbnail. Click on them to open the options to either delete or view the tour.

5/ When viewing the tour there will be two icons to the upper right.

6/ Click the cog icon which will toggle audio files off and on. The other icon is the fullscreen option.

Embedding The Tour On Your Blog

One of the best places to attract an audience for your new tour is on a blog or website. Embedding the tour is very simple.

1/ Below the published tour are the above icons. Click the Share option.

2/ This window will open. Click the Embed option.

3/ This window will now open showing what the tour will look like on the website or blog. Drag your mouse over the iframe markup, right click and select Copy.

4/ In Blogger sign into the dashboard and create a new post. Under the HTML tab name the new post and paste the iframe markup.

5/ Under the Compose tab the tour should be visible, although it may take a short while to appear.

If you use a blogging platform other than Blogger you'll need to find an option to paste HTML markup to the page, which most good paltforms will have.

Enjoy sharing your newly created 360 degree panoramic tour with all your friends and blogging followers, and come back for more tutorials and other goodies very soon.