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Immersive 360-Degree Before-and-After Images

If you’ve been following our journey to make stand out, custom virtual tours, you have already seen how we can transform a location from day to night at the click of a button or have the scene magically transform to sunset even as the user is looking around.

Resizable Split Screen View – Ideal for Before and After

Today, we’re showing off a brand new way of showing the same location at two different points in time. Instead of shifting the entire scene, we are now able to use a split screen to view both stages at the same time in a split screen view. This is a really great way to show off “before and after” for a location. We use the example here of a home under construction, but this could easily be used to wow potential customer in landscaping, real estate staging, kitchen renovations, and so on. As the user moves around, the scene transforms from one stage to the next almost like magic.

Try it out for yourself in the example below – this could easily be embedded in your website or shared on social media.

Twin View – Direct Comparisons

A slight variation on this is when, instead of emphasizing the transformation, we want the user to be able to compare two things side by side in 360 degrees. Instead of split screen, where we have a continuous view split in half as above, we can also offer twin view. In twin view, both left and right are looking at the same part of the scene. So instead of seeing the stairs on the left and the fridge and kitchen on the right in the previous example, both views would be of the stairs under construction and completed.

Getting Started

One of the great things about our virtual tour platform is that we can do some amazing things in our virtual tours. If you have a project that you think would benefit from a split screen or twin view, we are happy to work with you to figure out how best to make your vision a (virtual) reality. Send us a message on our contact page and we will get back to you promptly!

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Start Your Virtual Tour Anywhere

Example of a media index

So, you’ve had a virtual tour created but where, oh where, should you plunk users down? At least initially? Most of the time, we favour starting just outside the main entry for detached buildings and just inside the front door for apartments and similar locations. But wouldn’t it be great if you could have users start the tour in a specific location? Here are a few examples where you might want to do this:

  1. Start a tour with day/night mode at day or night depending on the current time of day;
  2. Start a tour shot in summer/winter in summer or winter mode depending on the season;
  3. In a social media post about a home’s kitchen, let users jump right into the kitchen in the virtual tour;
  4. In an email to a client, bringing them directly to a location you’re discussing.

As you might have guessed, Anikio’s virtual tours now have the capability to link directly to a room or even trigger a hotspot or information box. How? You just have to add ?media=xx to the URL, where xx is either the name of the room (it has to be exactly what we named it) or the index number. Of course, we’re more than happy to help you with this. While we’re at it, there’s also the ability to skip the introduction when you just want to get to the tour directly.

Here is the same tour, starting in the kitchen:

And  the living room (at night):

And there’s more we can do right from the URL. All you have to do is add a ‘?’ at the end and add one or more of the below options. To add more than one option at the same time, just separate them with ‘&’.

Virtual Tour URL Options:

  • skip-loading – Skip the introduction/loading screen
  • media=xx – Start in a specific location, where xx is the index number or the exact room title
  • yaw=YAW&pitch=PITCH – Start with the camera facing a certain direction (yaw = horizontal axis, pitch = vertical axis)
  • language=LANGUAGE_CODE – On multilingual tours, start the tour in the correct language
  • and more – contact us to work on ways we can make custom loading parameters for your marketing needs!
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Bringing Analytics to Virtual Tours

While it was becoming increasingly important for businesses to have an online presence before the pandemic, today it is an absolute necessity. We all know the advantages of having 24/7 reach, potentially around the globe. Anikio is, at its core, a business about improving the online experience, primarily in rentals and real estate. And so we’re well acquainted with one of the largest downsides of being online: the loss of interaction with customers.

Customer Interaction on the Internet

Customer interaction on the internet – learning meaningful information on your customer’s experience with your business or products – comes from just a few mechanisms:

  1. Contact forms and chat/messenger options.
  2. Social media presence and posts.
  3. Reviews.
  4. Purchases.
  5. Analytics

For a realtor, viewings and open houses can provide important feedback that may help ultimately sell the home. But what happens when those listings increasingly become virtual, when potentially 2/3 of those who look at the listing online never decide to reach out? They don’t fill out a form, comment on social media, etc? For that, we have to rely on analytics.

That’s why we’re pleased to be able to offer tie-ins with Google Analytics for virtual tours. While we can’t show what specific people look at or think, analytics allows us to get a sense of what potential clients, over a given period of time, are looking at, what they’re interacting with, and can offer insights into what is popular or overlooked when people are touring your property.

Example of Using Analytics in a Virtual Tour

An example of using data for Google Analytics, in an Anikio tour, to see where people are going. The bigger the orange circle (hotspots on the tour), the more people are visiting that location.

Take the example above. The user starts the tour outside (therefore, the largest circle). From there, most people go through the foyer and on to the dining room. A few go up into the sky for an aerial view and ultimately end up on the rooftop patio and top floor (not shown).

Relatively few people go through the garage overhead door (to the right). Most people that look through the garage come from the mudroom, to the right of the foyer. They stand on the steps and look in but most don’t venture further. Even those that come in through the double door on the garage instead seem to bypass that middle hotspot, for the most part, and hop right up to the door to the mudroom.

Acting on Insights

If we had something we really wanted to point out in that central hotspot, we might want to make sure it was prominent, maybe remove the ability to jump over it when coming from the overhead door into the house so that more people would see that feature. As a realtor, you might spend a bit more time marketing that feature since it is being overlooked in the walkthrough.

On the other hand, you might look at where people are being most engaged in the virtual tour and spend your marketing efforts on that. In our dive into the analytics of this virtual tour, for example, we saw that more people looked to see more information about the fireplace than any other feature in the home. The fireplace was attracting a lot of attention. Promoting the fireplace on social media, it stands to reason, might also garner more attention for this listing.

Analytics for Others

What if, instead of a realtor, this tour was used for a showhome. The architect or builder might use this to get an idea of where a layout isn’t flowing well and tweak the floorplan for the next build. Or, like the realtor above, might be surprised at how much interest the fireplace is attracting and choose to incorporate that brand or style of fireplace in more designs in the future.

The insights may be very different if this had been an business such as a shop or restaurant. But the more we can learn about our customers, the more we can make sure they have the best possible experience when they’re interacting with our online businesses.

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Cool Features in the 2021 Saskatoon Hospital Home Lottery Virtual Tour

10-cool-features-in-lottery-virtual-tour-cover

Sometimes, it’s the little things that make us smile. And for a home as large as the 4,500 sqft. Saskatoon Hospital Lottery Home, there are a surprising number of little details that have been taken into account. The gold inlaid borders in the floor. The chrome mouldings in the Scotch Room. The fact that there’s a room called the Scotch Room. But we’ll leave that discussion for the home and architecture lovers to analyze.

Of course a virtual tour needs to be easy to use, look great, and make you feel as much like you’re there as possible. Those are givens, especially for a home of this calibre. A $2.5M Hospital Home Lottery virtual tour. This is a year, after all, when the home is completely shut to the public and the virtual tour is more important than ever.

What we thought we’d do today is point out some of the little touches. Things that we hope will delight you and make touring the home virtual-only a little more special than a typical virtual tour.  Things that, speaking for ourselves at least, we’ve never before seen in a virtual tour in this city or province. And some things that you might just miss while we’re at it.

1) Day/Night Mode

In Saskatchewan winters, more than 16 hours of the day are spent in darkness. A good portion of your life is likely to be at home, after dark. So knowing what the home looks like, day or night, is pretty important. As well, this particular home has some beautifully integrated lighting features that just show up better after dark. On this virtual tour, you can make the sun rise or set with the click of that button in the bottom left!

2) Three Places to Watch Sunset

A home with a rooftop deck featuring views in 270 degrees simply has to be seen at sunset. We shot the three primary exterior panoramas in the day, at sunset, and at night. Hang around for a few seconds and watch the scene magically change as the sun sets on Greenbryre. You might not guess it, but don’t miss watching the house light up from the end of the driveway as day turns to night, either!

3) Aerial Virtual Tour

Did you notice the little helicopter icon in the last two panoramas? These aren’t just aerial photos… they’re full blown aerial 360 degree shots! View the home and neighbourhood from the front or back, no pilot’s license required!

4) A Bit of Flare

Lens Flare Effect in Virtual Tour

No, we didn’t misspell flair! This is likely to be something you wouldn’t even notice, but in photos where the sun is beaming down, we’ve generated an artificial lens flare. It adds a bit of depth and dimension to the photos and gives a little sprinkle of extra realism.

5) Hotspots!

You’ve already seen the drone hotspot, but here are just a few more, including the Decora Homes Logo. Open the door, walk to a spot on the floor, go up the stairs, or see more information about an item. We can customize hotspots for any tour.

6) Detail Callouts

See the little orange plus in the background on the fireplace? In the Saskatoon Hospital Home Lottery virtual tour, give one of those icons a tap or click to find out where some of these features were sourced. In other tours, these buttons may  pull up a website, link to purchasing a product, or generally give a bit more information. This tour has approximately 30 features that are shown in different ways, including with these callout hotspots.

7) Open and Close Doors

Sometimes you just want to take a peek into a room, like this second-floor laundry off the main hallway, for example. Or, in the case of the kitchen, a hidden door leads to a walk in pantry. You can view with the door closed to see how seamless the kitchen finish is, then open the door and walk in to raid the pantry yourself.

8) Integrated Floor Plans

At over 4500 sqft, you can’t view a home of this scale in a virtual tour without some way of quickly navigating to a location. See where you are thanks to the ‘radar’ indicator (not to mention the name of the room above the floorplan) and what direction you’re facing. Click to jump to that room at the end of the hall again. Or select a whole different floor to explore.

9) Hotspot Free Viewing

Hide the Hotspots and Enjoy the View

Sometimes those hotspots can distract from the clean and simple elegance of the room. Well, we’ve got you covered there. A toggle button in the menu at the top right turns hotspots off or back on again so you can enjoy or grab a screenshot to share with your friends.

10) Turn On, Tune In

Just a little bit of an easter egg. After a long day at the virtual office (i.e. at night), head on down to the basement living room. Go ahead and turn on that TV by clicking on it. And watch the night highlight video of the showhome from the comfort of your virtual couch.

Head over to check it out here:

https://hospitalhomelottery.org

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Anikio Chosen to Create Virtual Tour for 2021 Saskatoon Home Lottery Home

We’re really excited to announce that Anikio was chosen to create the virtual tour for the Saskatoon Hospital Home Lottery showhome in Greenbryre! The home, at 4,500 sqft and $2.5 million dollars, is stunning and we are very honoured to have been chosen to capture this home, its grand architecture, and intricate interior design. While it’s too early to let you in on some of the really unique features of the tour we’ll be creating, I think it’s safe to share that we will be shooting almost 150 360-degree panoramas and expect that this will take a week or so of time to complete from start to finish.  Virtual tours are more important than ever during the second wave of COVID-19, and while nothing beats an in-person viewing, it is important that we do our best to make online viewings as close as possible to the real thing.  This virtual tour is an ambitious undertaking to mirror the ambition in the home itself and we really can’t wait to get started!

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Introducing: Live Panoramas

Image Depicting a Live Panorama's ability to show the same 360-degree scene at day and night

Recently, we announced our capability to offer Live Guided Tours and Google Street View integration. Today, we’re announcing another exciting feature: Live Panoramas! Bring a scene to life and see your location in a whole new light! Live panoramas can be included in a virtual tour to showcase spectacular scenes, lighting, or any major difference in a location. Summer to winter. Render to actual. Crowded to empty. The result is captivating. While you’re having a look around, you’ll see the scenery change and slowly evolve.

This is a capability we’re proud to introduce to Saskatchewan in our continuing effort to revolutionize what virtual tours can do.

Why Include a Live Panorama?

In the example above, we have a home with a well-lit deck (plus Christmas lights) with western exposure. So we can showcase one of the best aspects – the sunset – and have it slowly introduced into the scene. This unexpected transition adds a sense of ‘wow’ to the view they were already looking at. It takes a throwaway line about western exposure in the description and brings it to life.

Where Else Would Live Panoramas Be Used?

There are more possibilities than we have the space – or even imagination – to list. Anywhere that a meaningful or impactful transition can highlight an exciting features about a location is a great candidate for a live panorama.

Above we showed a day-sunset-night transition to show the different lighting and western exposure. But we could just as easily be showing:

  • A theatre stage in different configurations
  • A patio with shade or screens up and down
  • A restaurant during the day and evening
  • A lounge that becomes a bar at night
  • A tourist attraction in winter and summer
  • A construction project before and after completion

Layered Tours: Another Option

Sometimes, it makes more sense to let the viewer control which scene they are viewing. So we can also create layered virtual tours where the entire location is filmed in various states.

For example, imagine you maintain an outdoor trail that is used for hiking in the summer and cross-country skiing in the winter. The user can view the whole trail in summer mode and never see a snowflake unless they clicked a button to change to winter time. In fact, with our deep linking, you could even provide a different link directly to summer and winter time depending on the season!

Or a tour of a finished home. Click a button and see the same tour except while the house is under construction. If your architect has a 3D CAD rendering of the home, we could even integrate those rendering into another layer on the same tour.

More Features To Come

We’re not done telling you about all the amazing capabilities our virtual tours have. Not by a long shot. Stay tuned for more updates coming soon!

With Anikio’s virtual tours, the options are limited only by your imagination!

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Opening Your Business to Virtual Foot Traffic with Google Street View

“Google Maps is the Dominant Local Search Engine”

–   SearchEngineLand.com, Nov 2019

But what if the people searching for your business or the service you provide could then jump right from Google Maps into your location? Soak up the atmosphere, look at the items on the shelf, the showroom or lobby instantly? Pre-COVID, 56% of people listed the first action they were most likely to take after finding a business on Google Maps was to visit in person. In the post-pandemic world of 2020, that number is unknown. What IS clear is that people still would prefer an in-person visit where possible. According to Google’s own statisticslistings with photos and a virtual tour are twice as likely to generate interest. Which probably means that Google, on their mission to show content most interesting to searchers, is more likely to show listings with photos and virtual tours first, all else being equal.
A case study of New York restaurants found that on average, restaurants that had incorporated Google Street View had a 30% higher click through to reservations. And the visitors that viewed those Google Street View virtual tours also clicked through to reserve 20% more than visitors of the same restaurant that didn’t open the Street View. Finally, 84% of the surveyed customers said that the virtual tour played a factor in their restaurant choice.

Google Street View Virtual Tours for Business

Getting a virtual tour of your business can help maintain or give you a competitive edge. At Anikio, we can create a fully branded, custom virtual tour that offers more than just a look around. An interactive tour that engages the customers. Have a salesperson on the floor that can come to life and introduce your business with a click. Popup information on a product with a “Buy now” button. The tour can be hosted by us or we can compile it to run on your website directly. And of course, we can publish a version of the same tour (subject to Google’s limitations) on Google Street View as well.

Dropping our little guy right into the middle of an Anikio Google Street View tour
Dropping our little guy right into the middle of an Anikio Google Street View tour

COVID-19 has made it more important than ever for your business to have a local presence online. We are eager to help! Learn more about our virtual tours or contact us directly for more information and/or a quote.

 

 

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Introducing Live Guided Virtual Tours!

Live Guided Tour Modes

 

From Virtual Open Houses to Virtual Field Trips

We’re really excited to introduce a feature to our virtual tours that makes the post COVID world feel a little bit more like it used to. Thanks to our new virtual tour engine, Anikio’s Live Guided Tours allow our customers to take clients, students or colleagues on a virtual walk-through that truly is shared. Live-Guided Tours allow you to have a video conference inside of a virtual tour, turning virtual tours into real experiences and adding a personal touch whether it’s a one-on-one call or a virtual field trip.

What Are Live Guided Tours?

This is more than screen sharing. Now, you can take your guests “by the hand” on a 360 degree virtual tour. As you turn to look at a feature you want to show off or walk into the next room, your guests will see exactly what you see. Or, if you grant permission, they can show you around to ask questions as they go. Synchronizing where you look, you can take turns on controlling the virtual tour. And of course, guests can be allowed to “unhook” from that and take a closer look where THEY want while you’re talking with each other. With a simple button click they hook back onto where the host is (equally, the host can force any guest to join back into their viewpoint with a button click).  

The host (whether you’re a landlord, realtor, teacher, or business owner) can point out areas of interest and discuss what’s being seen in 360º by everybody in real time. The guest can follow where the host takes him, look around on his own or ask for permission to control the tour for everybody as if he were the host.

And as host, you set the parameters for your experience. Are users allowed to unhook? Ask for control? Can they hear each other or just you? So if you’re a realtor doing a walk through to introduce 20 other realtors to a new listing, you can turn on presentation mode. 30 seconds after that’s finished, you can do a one-on-one with a potential buyer… without waiting for the realtors to leave or driving across town.

Of course, your guests can still view the tour on their own. But if you really want to walk through and help them understand the potential of the space, now you have the option to do that virtually!

And Live Guided Tours are accessible on both desktop and mobile devices, so your clients can dial in from their mobile phones as well.

 

How It Works

First of all, we have to create the account and credentials for you to act as host of the tour. Let us know that you’d like to have Live Guided Tours when we create your virtual tour and we’ll set everything up for you.

Already have an Anikio virtual tour? No problem! We can add this capability to an existing tour as well!

Hosting

Once we’ve published your virtual tour, you will receive credentials to sign on as a host. Now you’ve opened the line and guests visiting your virtual tour will see that a Live Guided Tour is available and and join the session.

All you need to do is right-click on your virtual tour and select “Start Live Guided Tour”. You’ll be asked for the name you wish to display as well as the password that Anikio provided. 

NOTE: Anyone currently viewing the virtual tour when you log in will not be able to see that you’re available to host until they refresh or re-open the tour.

Showing the menu option that starts hosting a live guided tour
Right click on your tour to open this menu

The first time, you will be quickly shown a few windows that explain the buttons and options available as host. Make sure you read through them, they do a much better job explaining than we are here! There are several different modes you can choose that determine how much interaction guests are allowed with you, the tour, and other guests.

Different Hosting Modes Available
The built-in tutorial showing some of the host options

Notifications and Permissions

Once you’re through these explanation windows, you’re ready to be called. Make sure your settings allow for notifications in your browser. Otherwise, you won’t be able to be notified of an incoming call.

In your browser, you’ll also need to give permission to access the camera and microphone. The browser system will ask you this automatically the first time that somebody calls you. Make sure you click “Allow” to grant access in the permission window. Even if you opt to not use your webcam for this guest (a separate setting) allowing access now will save you some digging into the permissions later. You can of course grant or revoke this permission in your browser settings at all times.

Be sure to allow access to camera and microphone so guests can see and hear you
You’ll be asked once if you’d like to allow access to camera and microphone so guests can see and hear you. Even if you allow access, you can still turn off microphone or camera for each call.

Should you not see this window or accidentally deny permission, you can go to your browser settings, search for the term “camera” and under  “Site Settings” and edit the sites that block and allow your camera access. This is the case for both host and guests accessing Live Guided Tours.

Guests

Guests will only be able to call when there is a host logged in and Do Not Disturb is turned off. As soon as the host has logged in, any new visitor of  the virtual tour will see the option to “START LIVE SESSION” on the top of the screen as shown below.

When clicked, the guest will be asked to give their name. Then, just click “Connect” to call in to the Live Session. Make sure to grant permission to your camera and microphone.

NOTE: If the guest opens the tour before the host has logged in, the guest will need to refresh their browser (F5 key or ) to see this option.

Calling to join a Live Guided Tour as a Guest
Calling to join a Live Guided Tour as a Guest

When a guest first enters the tour, they’ll also be shown a welcome screen with instructions on how to use the tour.

Welcome Screen Shown To Guests
Welcome Screen Shown To Guests

And that’s it. Ready to explore, show, guide and talk – together.

Real estate showings – accompanied and guided. Virtual field trips to the Western Development Museum or the Remai Modern Art Gallery. Personalized sales presentations and virtual showrooms staffed with actual humans. Virtual group plant visits with colleagues from all over the world. You name it. We’ll make it happen!

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When One Door Closes, A New Virtual Tour Opens

An example of a virtual tour on Anikio's new Virtual Tour Enginer=

Sometimes, when a door closes another door opens. A shinier, stronger, more incredible door that you never would have even noticed were it not for the first door closing. A door that is so exciting, you’d spend the first three sentences talking about it. A virtual door!

Let me take you back to September 4, 2020. Our first child, due November 8, had grown impatient and broke mom’s water at 30 weeks. We were scared, stressed, and at the hospital doing anything and everything we could to keep him (spoiler alert) in there. It was not the time that I would have chosen to receive the news that our virtual tour provider is going out of business. But there it was. A huge issue, because we had 45 virtual tours shot and hosted that would no longer exist. With customers attached to those tours that expected to be able to reuse them. And that home had been the only tour partner I’d found that could make our business model work for Anikio. It was not a great day.

The Problem With Most Virtual Tour Options

You see, the number one user of virtual tours, by far, is realtors. Realtors have their listings filmed, the virtual tour stays up for a few months, and by then the property is sold, pulled, or the agent loses the listing most of the time. That virtual tour isn’t needed again. Virtual tour providers are set up to work within that model, with subscriptions that limit the maximum number of ‘active’ tours at a given time and pricing that makes virtual tours totally inaccessible to other markets. Matterport, I’m looking at you.

With Anikio, we had a solution that would allow us to retain and re-use tours year after year and, with enough tour renewals, would pay the bills on our hosting subscription fees. That allowed us to price the tours within reach for rentals, which is still our core focus. And then we didn’t.

The Next Generation of Virtual Tours

We scoured the internet for options. We looked at pricing, ran numbers, and did a bunch of ninja math. We reviewed and built virtual tours, had phone calls with sales agents, tried option after option. And what we finally found did require a fair amount of capital up front, but gives us total control over the virtual tours we create. More over, it takes Anikio virtual tours from being a budget option for rental property to the premier option for virtual tours in Saskatchewan. It opens doors (uh oh, here we go again with the doors!) for our customers to have a virtual presence like never before at a time, during the COVID-19 pandemic, when it has never been more important to have an online presence.

Our virtual tours look better, have more interactivity options, more customization and user interface capabilities, and more advanced marketing tools than we have ever seen in this province. We can integrate directly with Google’s Street View so a business with an Anikio tour can walk right in from Google and get a feeling for their physical location. We’re unlocking the possibilities of Virtual Open Houses with our new Live Guided Tour option that lets landlords or realtors host and show a property virtually to potential renters or buyers anywhere in the world. We’re able to create a unique, Custom Branded Experience for businesses or realtors. And now virtual tours can be turned easily into native Facebook and YouTube 360-degree videos.

This really is just scratching the surface of the possibilities of our new virtual tour engine. Embedded floor plans, Deep Linking (directly bring someone into a specific room), Google Analytics, Information Windows, Integrated Photo Album, Dynamic Introductions, Voice-to-text, Integrated Sound/Music, Virtual Reality Ready, and so much more!

We can’t wait to share more details on some of these many features here and on our virtual tour page!

Oh Right! That Other Thing

So, a few weeks later, Mikali, our first son, was born! 8 weeks early but he has been doing amazingly well. It certainly has been an adjustment working from home and having a child first in NICU and now at home also, but we are so grateful that he’s healthy and doing well.

 

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Introducing Gabe!


Hi everyone! I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce you to Gabe Wong, who has joined us as photographer and virtual tour expert! Gabe’s family also has a portfolio of rental property in the city that he manages, so he’s a perfect fit! We’re shooting a place right now in Evergreen, and I have to say it’s a lot more fun talking to someone than talking to myself when I’m running around taking photos.

Shooting a virtual tour for a house in Evergreen

Gabe isn’t perfect, I admit – he shoots with Canon instead of Nikon! But despite our difference in equipment, he does great work and we’re happy to be working with him! By the way, look for this new rental to be listed on Anikio shortly!