Gallery pioneers 'eye opening' hyper-real virtual tours

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A city art gallery is pioneering a new form of hyper-real virtual tours with “eye opening” technology used to showcase properties for sale.

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Morningside Gallery, which allowed passers-by to curate its window displays during lockdown, says the experimental tours allow visitors to “walk” through the gallery and view artworks despite not being able to visit in person.

Now the gallery owner predicts the innovative technology from 360 Virtual Studios will be a game-changer for galleries, museums, and historic venues that have been hit hard by restrictions during the pandemic.

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Visitors can take self-guided, hyper-realistic 3D toursVisitors can take self-guided, hyper-realistic 3D tours
Visitors can take self-guided, hyper-realistic 3D tours

Experts at Edinburgh’s 360 Virtual Studios use hi-tech cameras and software to create detailed, virtual tours of any setting, allowing visitors to take hyper-realistic 3D tours. Visitors can zoom in on specific exhibits and also pull up a host of additional information with embedded tags.

Eileadh Swan, Director of the gallery, said: “Until this point, I simply had no idea what was possible and I think most people are astonished when they see what can be done.”

The 37-year-old added: “It’s as close as possible to the experience of being in the gallery. Both visitors and artists love it. We’re delighted to be among the first venues in Scotland to use this technology, as I suspect it is going to be very big indeed.”

The gallery hit the headlines in 2020 after being inspired by fingerprints on their windows to start daily changes to the window displays according to online requests posted by passers-by.

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Eileadh Swan, owner of Morningside Gallery, in front of an artwork in the Morningside Road venueEileadh Swan, owner of Morningside Gallery, in front of an artwork in the Morningside Road venue
Eileadh Swan, owner of Morningside Gallery, in front of an artwork in the Morningside Road venue

They followed that by turning a popular annual exhibition by Scottish abstract painter Scott Naismith into a virtual event, along with a Zoom-based launch party and online recordings from Naismith to accompany web-based versions of his artworks.

But the virtual tours are having an even bigger impact. They have already attracted customers locally, across the UK and Europe.

Eileadh says the technology will be used far beyond lockdown: “There’s something exciting about the untapped potential here, it’s definitely opened our minds to how we’ll conduct our business going forward. We’re seeing around 1,000 website impressions of individuals taking the tour on average per week.”

“Being able to get a sense of a piece online is amazing – you can see everything from the texture and colour of a piece of art and how it fits into a frame, or its depth.

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“It showcases artwork in a way that you can’t capture by using photography alone, and the tags are perfect for directing customers to the artwork and information about the artist.

People are using the tours combined with other images and information on the website to buy artwork, with many saying it feels like they’ve been able to visit the gallery in person thanks to the tour.

“The artists also think it’s great. After a tough year in and out of lockdown, they’ve had to work harder to showcase their work. Having it displayed like this is an amazing added extra – they’re thrilled to have been included and represented.”

Following the success of the initial virtual tour the gallery has already commissioned a second featuring paintings with a three-dimensional aspect to them.

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360 Virtual Studios is the brainchild of entrepreneur Michelle Milnes who has developed services for galleries, museums, events spaces and retailers to help them recover from the pandemic.

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