A quick look at Google’s new Tour Creator

As those of you focused on the 360-degree imagery scene probably know, Google recently introduced a new tool called “Tour Creator”. This post is a quick review of the tool, with some comments about what is done well and what could be done better. To start with what was done well, it is worth pointing out that the tool is exceptionally easy to use and very responsive.

To begin with, this appears to be for tours of public spaces and from what I have seen thus far, was originally intended for educational tours.  If you are wishing to create tours of your home or other private property, although it certainly has the best price (free), this isn’t the best tool available.

The Tour Creator is designed to allow you to assemble a series of 360-degree images, using either Google Street View or your own image library, to create an experience that users can step through. In its initial release, the Tour Creator is really quite simple in its structures and functionality.

At the top level, you have a Tour, which you create by clicking on the “New Tour” button on the top left of the screen.

You are required to give the Tour a 2D image as a cover photo. This can only be JPEG or PNG format and must be at least 576 x 432 px.

Ideally, you will want an image with an aspect ratio of 1.3. Based upon my experimentation, the first thing that I will complain about is the fact that if you select an image that you don’t like, there is no obvious means to replace the image.  Instead, I had to delete the Tour in order to replace the image. Very unfriendly and something that I hope gets fixed soon.

I initially uploaded an image that was 2500 by 1080, which was too wide for the display box, but as soon as the Tour was created, the background filled up with an image that was adjusted to fit into the background, with an aspect ratio adjusted automatically to the size of your browser window.

I then experimented with an image that was 1500 by 1500 and this was just a bit too tall for the initial display but looked acceptable at the top level.

You will notice that Google also adds a gradient to the image. This doesn’t appear to have any purpose, as it doesn’t go away once the Tour has been published.

Finally, I fed the Tour an image of 2160 by 1500 and looked quite nice.

Once you have selected an image, you should give the Tour a title and a description.  If you don’t enter a title, Google keeps the default text of “Untitled Tour”. I experimented and see that you can have multiple tours with the same title, so if you might want to be careful with your names if you’re are an experimenter like me.

Additionally, Google would like you to assign the Tour a category.  This is a short list of about 20 categories which currently cannot be customized.

Once you hit the Create button, you are allowed to add Scenes.  This can be any number of locations from Google Maps or 360-degree images from you own library. If you choose to select from Google Maps, you can enter an address of a Street View location.  Just for grins I experimented with Latitude and Longitude, but wasn’t successful.

Uploading an image as a scene is the usual drag-and-drop or file browser selection.

Once you add a scene, you can give it a name and a description.

Additionally, each Scene can have Points Of Interest (POI). The POI can have a standard icon or an image icon. The image icon allows you to insert a 2D image of your choice and adjust it to just about any size you want.

POIs have the following behaviors.  First, they are – as expected – fixed to a given location in the image.  When the image rotates, the POI follows the image. On the bottom left hand side of the Scene, you have the Scene name.

If you click on the Scene name, it will expand into a list of the POIs. When you click on the name from the POI list, the POI will be brought to the center of the screen and expanded. If the POI has an associated image, the image will be shown.

If the POI has no associated image, then clicking on the POI will cause its text to be shaded and the POI will be highlighted by significantly thickening its border. Clicking on any POI  will cause the POI list to expand, the POI to be centered in the image and the text for the POI to be shaded.

Deleting Scenes and modifying their location in the sequence is easily accomplished by clicking on the ellipsis to the right of the Scene name.

After you’ve added all the desired Scenes and Points of Interest, you will want to publish the Tour by clicking on the blue Publish button at the top right of the Scene displayed.

The publishing process will allow you to create either Public Tour or an Unlisted Tour.

Once the Tour is published, you’ll get a URL that you can use to share the Tour as you wish.

The Public Tours are maintained in a public list of tours which can currently be found at https://poly.google.com/tours. The image used in the listing is the image you selected at the very beginning of the Tour creation process.

What does a Tour look like when viewed? Well, that’s where I start having my complaints.  In typical Google fashion, you don’t have any ability to control the entry point when a Scene is selected.  Maybe it starts out where you want, maybe not.

Users can navigate from Scene to Scene by clicking on the arrows at the bottom of the Scene.

Viewers are given the option to Like or Share the Tour.  If the Tour is being viewed by its owner, then you can also Edit or Delete the Tour.

What would make Tour Creator better?  Well, we start with the ability to control the entry point to any scene and add to that the ability to:

  • Change the icon for as POI
  • Add music to a Scene
  • Add Video to a POI
  • Add an external link to a POI
  • Allow for a timed transition from Scene to Scene

I am sure that after you play with Tour Creator you will have some ideas of your own.  And one of the very cool things about Tour Creator is that Google put a “Send Feedback” button to the right of the Publish button.  As always, there is no promise that any idea you give them will be implemented, but no harm in trying!!