SkyNav tours bring the future to Wilmington

As the first city in the nation to introduce interactive, virtual reality tour technology, Wilmington offers a cutting-edge tourism experience.

WILMINGTON — It’s barely the size of a case you’d store your glasses in, yet inside contains the whole universe; well, the universe of Wilmington and surrounding beaches that is. SkyNav has put the Port City on the map as the first in the nation to introduce 3D interactive tour technology, and it’s as easy as slipping your phone into a small cardboard box with virtual reality spectacles to let the journey take hold.Ty Downing, CEO of SISDigital, the full service digital agency behind SkyNav, said while he can’t give away all their secrets the creation involved a mix of simple and complex.”We’ve brought multiple technologies into creating SkyNav to create an immersive experience. Utilizing drone photography and ground-level, the thing that is unique is that we can go from sky to ground back to the sky.” said Downing, “It can be viewed on mobile, tablet, desktop it’s programmed with HTLM5 so it’s capable of handling modern digital assets.”The tour includes 13 aerial and 14 ground panoramas encompassing the entire Wilmington coastline from the city to its three island beaches : Wrightsville, Carolina, and Kure. SISDigital is FAA Section 107 certified, meaning they have received their drone pilot accreditation.Downing notes, “These are not hobby drones, these are very high quality. We take a series of multiple images, could be 30 to 40 in the sky in a fixed location and the process is we have to stitch them, color correct them, control points…there’s a lot of fine-tuning to make this globe perfect. It’s a lengthy process.”The fine-tuning and sheer perfection is noted once you take the visual journey, be it your desktop or mobile phone. The crystal clear image sparkles as if you’re standing right on River Street overlooking the Cape Fear River, or instantly transported to a sunny beach day beside the glimmering turquoise water of Wrightsville. SkyNav is not only visual but educational, viewers can click on landmarks with 54 integrated info beacons. “We strategically placed all these assets in the spot that they geographically live.” said DowningWhile the digital aspect is cutting edge, it also ups the ante for the tourism market. People can visualize, plan, and be enticed prior to stepping foot in the city. “It’s a visual inspiration” said Shawn Braden, Executive Vice President of Marketing for Wilmington and Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau, “People first have to start dreaming about where they want to go…the dreaming part is the critical phase and that’s where this tool comes in.”Consumer interest in virtual reality is steadily on the rise with exponential growth expected over the next three years. And our brains are actually wired to respond to the VR experience as it appeals to and leverages the three parts of our brain responsible for perception and reaction (neocortex, limbic system, and reptilian brain).The partnership between SISDigital and the Wilmington area is betting on that natural curiosity. Braden notes, “I’ve heard many people say this could almost be more powerful than the [tourism] website. We’re taking them on a journey not a destination.”