Virtual reality tour of Cork plans next move

Paul Lee shows off his virtual 3D tour of Cork which is a huge hit online. Picture: Des Barry
Paul Lee shows off his virtual 3D tour of Cork which is a huge hit online. Picture: Des Barry

An architect behind a virtual 3D tour of Cork which became a viral hit on YouTube is hoping to have an app to help tourists navigate the city released in time for the Jazz Weekend.

Inspired by Google Earth, where photographic 3D buildings can be displayed in virtual reality, Cork man Paul Lee and a group of young trainee enthusiasts produced a Cork City model as part of a joint project between Viewsion Virtual Environments and the Webworkhouse on Winthrop St.

Paul’s ultimate ambition is to develop an app that can be used as a visual guide to the city.

“We are used to text-based search and menu-based search. We use texts and menus to dig for information. What we are talking about here is something that will allow you to search for something geographically,” Paul explained.

The app, currently under development for Android and Apple phones, will allow users to view a 3D model of the city and zoom in and click on buildings and places of interest to access further information online.

“Besides making the city more accessible to tourists, we want to make this map familiar to Corkonians so that when someone wants to point out a location it is easy to refer to a place visually and spatially rather than just depending on diagram type maps. I don’t think this will replace diagrams and street names, but will become a very useful extra reference tool,” he said.

The 3D technology behind the model has further applications, and Paul has used the model schematics to produce a physical 3D model of the city which is approximately the size of a rice cake. He says the technology can be used to make maps, interactive experiences, and 3D-printed models.

“We can produce the same kind of thing on any scale in any form, it’s like manufacturing. Instead of hand-making it, you’re getting a machine to build it. We will be printing models of quarters of the city, and St Fin Barre’s and other areas. There are very exciting possibilities with it,” he said.

Paul is involved with Designerdojo.ie, a free mentoring session to teach children how to use 3D design technology. He believes it is an emerging field that deserves greater attention.

“It’s a very important area for the future, it’s something that we really need to focus on in education and start creating our future with these tools because it is amazing what is available and what we can do,” he said.

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