Ottawa startup 3Dshowing.com creates virtual tour of local art gallery

An Ottawa tech company is changing perspectives on art, offering a virtual reality tour of the Ottawa Art Gallery.

3Dshowing.com has created a walkthrough of the local gallery in VR. Users can click through the space on a desktop browser or, if they have a Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear VR, load the tour on a phone and walk about the virtual gallery.

The partnership began when Alex Comeau, 3Dshowing’s sales and marketing director, approached the OAG about creating the first virtual reality art gallery in Canada.

“People don’t necessarily take enough time to go out and go for visits themselves, especially if they live out of town or have accessibility issues,” Mr. Comeau says of the virtual offering.

The process for rendering the gallery in the virtual space uses a special camera from Matterport that spins in place and captures the immediate surrounding space with infrared and coloured lenses. Each circle on the floor of the VR tour is where the camera has captured a data point. Once it has finished the scans, it collects these points like pieces of a puzzle and puts the fully-rendered experience together overnight.

“I felt that there was a lack of innovation, not just at the art gallery, in viewing any property online,” Mr. Comeau says.

3Dshowing.com, now a year and a half old, specializes in rendering real estate listings in VR. The startup works with property managers and developers to showcase spaces and visualize new builds. The company can even take an architect’s digital model and build out a VR walkthrough experience.

The appeal of VR is in its convenience: Mr. Comeau says that the technology attracts millennials seeking student housing, overseas property buyers, or any family looking for a home who would prefer to see 30 houses in an hour rather than three.

While primarily in the real estate market, 3Dshowing sees the art space as a vertical market it would like to expand into.

“Anywhere that property is a question online, there’s a use there (for VR),” Mr. Comeau says, mentioning the possibility of previewing daycare spaces as another attractive option for the technology.

While Mr. Comeau is excited about the potential virtual tours available in galleries, he doesn’t feel that VR will ever fully replace the physical experience of art. Instead, he argues that virtual reality is just an option that makes the experience more accessible.

It's a sentiment also expressed by Alexandra Badzak, the OAG’s director and CEO.

“Virtual reality should be one of the many strategies in our 21st century museum toolkit for the OAG,” she said. "It’s about access and accessibility."

3Dshowing.com is run by a main team of three with around 10 subcontractors between Ottawa and Kingston to help with aspects such as photography. In the next few months, the company expects to expand into Toronto as well.

Mr. Comeau and 3D showing founder Brandon Lusignan are also looking into other uses for virtual reality with another startup, VReadily, which is in pre-development. The new company will look at opportunities in sectors such as education, healthcare and phobia-aversion where VR is just starting to take off.

Mr. Comeau says that the partnership with the OAG has been successful for both organizations, and that when the gallery moves into its new space, 3DShowing will come along to bring the gallery into virtual reality.