No technical knowledge required.

You might have seen the launch of our Treehouse virtual classes for students during the COVID-19 outbreak last week – we’ve had some brilliant lessons so far (you can still register).

To deliver these classes we rely on a variety of online tools, including Google Tour Creator.

You can use Tour Creator to create virtual-reality tours using imagery from templates, Google Street View, or your own 360-degree image collection.

It’s also possible to highlight points of interest in each photo (scene) with text, imagery, and audio files.

If you’re a teacher, student, parent, or just bored at home during the current lockdown, publishing your own tours is a fun way to pass the time whilst learning about our world and helping others to do the same. Here’s how…

1. Gather inspiration

Content is free to create and view, but you’ll need a Google Account.

Google Poly

Start by browsing some existing tours to see what’s possible and for some inspiration.

2. Create a new Tour

Open up Tour Creator on your PC.

It’s possible to create a tour using a prebuilt template. This is useful if you want to customise an existing tour built by Google, but the selection is limited.

In this example we will create new tour.

Google Tour Creator create a new Tour

The cover page will be what’s shown to people searching for tours. Try to make it as enticing as possible with a clear cover image, title and description.

For my example tour, I’m going to curate some of the most stunning places to walk in Scotland (because there are many to choose from!).

3. Add a scene

Google Tour Creator add your first scene

You can upload your own 360-degree image as the scene background.

Alternatively, you can select from millions of Street View images captured by Google.

I selected Street View imagery because Scotland has been well mapped by Google.

Use the search bar and map to find a location, then drag the orange pegman onto the blue line to explore the captured imagery.

Once you’re happy with the image, select it, making sure to set a good first orientation for the viewer (using the “Set start view” button).

4. Annotate your scene

Google Tour Creator annotate your scene

Now you can add content to your scene to enhance it for your viewers by adding a title and description.

You can also add multiple Point of Interest (POI) to the scene.

POI’s will appear as information markers to viewers of your tour.

Select “+ Add point of interest” and choose the area of the photo to place the marker.

Once placed, you can add further text that will be displayed when the viewer clicks the POI marker. You can also add an image to your POI and record an audio file to bring the text / imagery to life.

I have added a photo of Razorbills that nest on the marked cliff edge. I also attached an audio file of the birds calls for viewers to listen to.

5. Add more scenes

Google Tour Creator add multiple scenes

The best tours have multiple scenes that link well together around a theme.

Add scenes by clicking “Add scene” along the bottom bar. Once you’ve added the new scene you can add content in exactly the same way as described in step four.

I chose the theme of Discover Scotland in the example, with each scene representing a truly stunning walk in the country.

6. Publish and share your tour

Google Tour Creator publish your tour

Now it’s time for others to enjoy your tour.

You have two options. Publish as:

  • Unlisted: Only those with the link will be able to find and view it
  • Public: Anyone using Google Poly or the Google Expeditions app will be able to find it via search

Whichever option you choose, once published you’ll be given a link you can use to share your tour immediately.

7. Guide your tour

Google Tour Create Guide a Tour on your device

To guide a tour you’ve created with your class or with friends and family at home you’ll all need be:

  • on the same WiFi network
  • using the Google Expeditions app

To start guiding, find your newly published tour in the app (it might take a few hours to become visible) then select the “Guide” option.

Follow the instructions to invite others to your guided tour.

Google Tour Create Annotate a Guided Tour

Once everyone has joined, you can lead the expedition. The “highlight pen” is a great tool to point out interesting features to those you’re guiding along the way.

Stuck for ideas?

We need help creating and delivering new educational content about the natural world for Treehouse.

If you’d like to help, thank you!

Please fill in the form at the bottom of this page and one of our team will email you with more information.

Share your content

Have you or your students created a virtual reality tour? Perhaps you’ve found one created by someone else that you’d like to share with others?

Tag us on social media with links to your tours and we’ll share our favourites.

Find us on:

Update August 2020: You can now create virtual guidebooks in Map the Paths too.

David Greenwood

Professional explorer.