3-D virtual mapping of university's library space

At the University of Otago's Central Library are (from left) Speedy Signs business development...
At the University of Otago's Central Library are (from left) Speedy Signs business development manager Mike Scott, who fabricated the kiosk, associate university librarian, central services, Maureen Miller and software developer Punch Marketing managing director James Higgs. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
University students visiting one of Dunedin's most sprawling open plan buildings can now navigate their way around using a recently installed, 3-D, 360-degree virtual tour kiosk.

More than a year in the making and using more than 1000 panoramic shots stitched seamlessly together, two of the "way-finding" mobile kiosks have just been installed on the library's ground floor.

James Higgs, managing director of marketing and development company Punch Marketing in Dunedin, had been assisting the library with physical signage, when an earlier project with Otago businesses came to mind, which transformed the project into the 3-D, 360-degree, virtual "way finding" kiosk with its 55-inch screen.

Mr Punch has also been one of the first in New Zealand to work alongside tech giant Google, in supplying more than 100 virtual tours for businesses across Dunedin and Otago, and linked to Google platforms.

Using United States company Matterport's virtual tour platform and building the software required to match, Mr Higgs spent four days documenting the building, in a clarity and definition so sharp that room numbers are readable.

Not only does it guide students to where they need to be, initially from a "doll's house" perspective leading to "walk through" imagery, but group study areas can be booked on mobile phones.

The kiosk concept would be suitable for a large number of businesses, ranging from airports and shopping malls, to schools and sports facilities, he said.

Mr Higgs is taking the concept national, now that the library kiosks were operational, and said there had been strong interest from around the country.

Associate university librarian, central services, Maureen Miller, said student feedback had been that the sprawling building was difficult to navigate, and "challenging", given there were more than 2000 student study places in it.

The kiosk was replacing a bank of manned help desks.

Mr Higgs said the kiosks were a culmination of nearly five years of working in the virtual tour space in Dunedin.

The company started with Google Street View and Business View, manually stitching up to 12 images together to make one 360-degree image.

The Matterport technology had now taken this process "to the next level", both in production speed and quality of the finished product, he said.

The tours would eventually be available online, allowing the rest of the world to see "another snippet of Dunedin's amazing" architecture, Mr Higgs said.

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