Visit your favourite destinations with the help of virtual technology.
Even though the pandemic has forced closures and cancellations of all kinds of fun stuff, like art galleries, vacations and live shows, we can still experience some of those things we miss. Thanks to technology, it’s all possible without having to venture out the front door. We’ve compiled a list of virtual experiences that are worth a try.
Take a simulated trip
Got a bad case of wanderlust? While physically travelling continues to be a challenge, you can still discover a number of tourist attractions around the world. This 360-degree video lets you take a quick tour of Tokyo in 2D, or use a virtual reality headset for a more immersive experience (more on VR technology below). Explore the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu, fly over volcanoes in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park or take a walk along the Great Wall of China. The internet has endless options and visiting several destinations is easily done in an hour or two. True, it may not beat a real-life experience, but it’s a pretty good and safe alternative.
Arts and culture … online
If you love getting lost in museums or art galleries, you can still visit many of them virtually, with the added bonus of not having to plan an expensive vacation to reach them in person. Explore the Anne Frank House or the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Take a trip to the Louvre in Paris, or stay on this side of the Atlantic and check out New York City’s Guggenheim Museum.
Don’t forget that Canada also has its share of impressive museums and galleries. The Canadian Museum of History, the Royal Ontario Museum and the Montreal Gallery of Fine Arts all offer online experiences for virtual visitors.
Google has come up with a really cool feature that lets you access a variety of activities, travel to various destinations, see art, and explore history and different cultures. Check out Google arts and culture to see this impressive assortment of interactive experiences, all available free of charge.
Virtual shows and concerts
For those who are sorely missing shows or concerts, various groups and artists have been able to offer some respite through videos or virtual concerts. For theatre lovers, the Stratford Festival has a number of shows viewers can tune into. Cirque du Soleil has created a collection of hour-long specials and behind-the-scenes looks to keep fans entertained.
There are also tons of sites that feature live-stream concerts, such as LivexLive or StageIt for those who are interested in up-and-coming artists. Ticket prices can vary, as they would in real life. Other places to look for live performances include YouTube and social media outlets like Facebook, Instagram Live and Twitter Live.
No matter what tickles your fancy – whether it’s travel, music, arts or culture – recent advancements in technology allow us to experience much more from home. One day we will be able to do all this fun stuff in person, but until then, we can still enjoy a variety of virtual alternatives.
VR tech and how it works
Using a mix of hardware and software, virtual reality technology provides a 3D image that creates as “real” an experience as possible for the viewer. While many equate virtual reality with serious gamers wearing expensive headsets and using hand controls to play a video game, VR technology is also used in simulation and training programs for various occupations. The equipment can be very expensive depending on how and where it’s used, but more affordable, simpler options are available.
The VR headset – a head-mounted device that allows the wearer to interact with a virtual reality environment – varies in price and quality. Some have to be connected to a computer that has VR software installed, while others are designed for specific gaming consoles. More recent is the emergence of “stand alone” headsets that are equipped with the necessary software. Some also come with handheld controls to enhance the overall experience.
Headsets and viewers have also been designed for smartphones, to work with hundreds of apps that offer simple virtual experiences. Users insert their phone into an enclosure in the headset and view content from the smartphone screen through a lens. This style of smartphone headset is generally inexpensive and a good option for first timers.
For those looking for something a little different, Google has created Google Cardboard. It consists of DIY kits and specifications that tell you how to build your own headset using low-cost materials (hence the name Cardboard), or you can purchase one ready-made for as low as $12.
 Top 10 virtual tours: see the world without leaving home | TechRadar
 Can’t Travel? Here are 45+ of the Best Virtual Tours Around The World (globotreks.com)
 8 Virtual Tours of Canadian Museums | Expedia.ca