“Mechelen is the first city in the Low Countries to apply 360° and virtual reality on such a large, tourism scale. It is also the only city in the Low Countries where you can zoom in from a helicopter view on attractions, townscapes and special buildings. You can take a virtual walk through the city and visit tourist highlights through one and the same portal. Moreover, you can also enjoy the full VR functionality at home if you have a Google Cardboard, Samsung Gear VR or Oculus Rift. In the future, we will include even more attractions”, says Alderman for Culture and Tourism Björn Siffer.
604 gigabytes of images and 38 locations
Some of the churches and buildings that are currently being restored, such as the future tourist desk in the Aldermen’s House, the Burgundian museum in Hof van Busleyden and a few townscapes and shopping streets are still waiting to be included in the tour. The images are available on virtueelmechelen.be as well as on the website www.VisitMechelen.be and on the websites of Mechelen and its international partners. “Currently we have already recorded 604 gigabytes worth of images, allowing you to take a virtual tour of 38 locations”, says Björn Siffer.
Virtual Mechelen also lets you visit locations that are not always open to the public. They include the palace of Margaret of Austria, the town hall or the mural in St. John’s Church, which you can only visit with a guide.“If you are in Mechelen and a historic church, the Winter Garden or the world-famous Royal Manufacturers De Wit are closed, you can still take a virtual tour of these locations at www.virtueelmechelen.be or with an Oculus Rift VR glasses”, says Björn Siffer. “While we understand that nothing will surpass a real visit, we have used very high resolutions to approximate reality as closely as possible. The virtual visualisation of the mural in St. John’s Church, for example, is a 360° 1500 mexapixel image, meaning its picture quality is 125 times higher than that of an iPhone 7.”
Climbing the tower without taking the stairs
The website was designed to invite tourists to visit the city as well as offer people with reduced mobility the opportunity to enjoy less accessible attractions. You can borrow an Oculus Rift headset from the tower desk of St. Rumbold’s Tower to visit the tower without actually having to climb the stairs for example. “Now people with reduced mobility can also visit the tower. Mechelen is a very human and inclusive city”, says Björn Siffer.