First it was the internet major Google which promised a complete walkthrough of over 100 Indian monuments from your armchair. Now, a relatively unknown start-up called WoNoBo.com has partnered with the ministry of tourism to introduce an innovative and entertaining online service, which would enable users to have a 360-degree walkthrough of the country’s most visited monuments.
Point to be noted—as access to the Web in India as well as globally increases, more people are living online. Whether you are watching IPL on YouTube from your home computer, or connecting with friends via social media on-the-go, the internet is now part of everyday life. Digital tourism is also an innovative use of this medium.
Let us first look at the Google initiative. After bringing iconic global landmarks like France’s Eiffel Tower, America’s Grand Canyon and Japan’s Mt Fuji, among others, alive on the internet through its immersive visual walkthroughs, Google has now commenced work on putting 100 major Indian monuments and sites in that league. The internet company has partnered with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to create virtual tours of these places. On the list are the Taj Mahal, the Qutub Minar (which has already been photographed and mapped), Humayun’s tomb (next on the list), Khajuraho and the Ajanta and Ellora caves. The rest of the list is yet to be finalised.
Google Cultural Institute Director Amit Sood said, “We wanted enhanced and an active experience for our (virtual) visitors and not just mere passive viewing of the sites. And, that’s why we want to partner with agencies like the ASI, UNESCO, World Monuments Fund to source authoritative content—current and archival to enrich user’s experience.”
How it will be done is an interesting exercise in itself. A device called the Street View Trekker will be used to create these tours. It consists of a camera mounted on a backpack, allowing a cinematographer from the search engine’s digital cartography department to go into places that a Google’s Street View car is not allowed. Each monument will take approximately a week to be catalogued. Once filmed, the virtual tours will be accessible at the Google Maps and Google World Wonders website, to be viewed alongside the hundreds of tourist attractions around the world that have already been mapped.
Google Street View primarily features imagery taken on public property. This imagery is not available in real time and is no different from what any