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Thanks to VR you can visit Helsinki without snow boots

Thanks to VR you can visit Helsinki without snow boots
[Photo: rawpixel/Unsplash]

Helsinki is making the most of its new European Capital of Smart Tourism title–which it presumably won in a fierce Thunderdome-like competition–by pursuing new frontiers in digital tourism. The country is promoting its efforts at bringing in one million visitors to the Finnish capital. Visitors don’t need to brave the Finnish winter to do so, though. Instead Helsinki wants tourists to visit via virtual reality.

Virtual Helsinki is a virtual city experience that lets would-be tourists wander a digital twin of Helsinki that was built using 3D modeling. It was developed by the City of Helsinki with its partner VR-studio ZOAN. In the virtual city, VR tourists can tour the city’s famed Senate Square, see architect Alvar Aalto’s home, and visit the summer island of Lonna–all complete with a soundtrack and changing seasons. (Now if only they could create a VR version of the Holiday Bar.)

While many tourist destinations have been using VR 360-videos to lure tourists to their fair cities for some time, Virtual Helsinki aims to do something broader. VR-Helsinki allows visitors to move about freely in the computer simulation of Helsinki, creating additional experiences. And, in the future, VR-Helsinki will serve as a digital platform that will enable other service providers to run their businesses.

“Visitors can tour Helsinki as it was in the early 20th century, or purchase Finnish design products and have them delivered to their homes by post,” explains Miikka Rosendahl, CEO of ZOAN. The hope is that, in the near future, friends from around the world can plan a virtual trip to Helsinki together, virtually meeting in the virtual destination to have real fun.

Virtual Helsinki will be presented at the startup event Slush in December, and available to all VR-headset-wearing armchair tourists next year.

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