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Aerial perspective of a New York intersection

Here at Black Tomato Agency, we’re used to thinking outside the box when it comes to dreaming up pioneering and exhilarating motivational destinations for our clients. We look beyond the usual holiday destinations in order to create once-in-a-lifetime trips that incentivise and inspire your workforce to go above and beyond company goals in pursuit of a seat on that plane. Creating these trips is our bread and butter, but while researching private tropical islands, remote Nordic design hotels, supercar experiences in the Middle East and ultra-deluxe African safaris, we can’t help but develop a sense of wanderlust every once in a while. Recently, however, we’ve discovered a new method to stave off the feeling, or at least scratch the itch until the next time we step on the tarmac.

As autumn draws in and the prospect of stepping out into the rain to grab an uninspiring supermarket meal deal for lunch becomes less appealing, what better way to spend your lunch break than to explore a virtual reality (VR) world than from the comfort of your office chair/standing desk/favourite yoga position? VR differs from traditional video content as it places the user inside an experience. Instead of viewing a screen in front of them, users are immersed and able to interact with 3D worlds. The future is here. In true Blue Peter fashion, here’s a list of things you will need to VR travel the world on your lunch break: a smartphone, Google Cardboard*, and one of the following apps:
*A low-cost virtual VR headset developed by Google for use with a smartphone – it is not necessary for all apps.

We’ve trawled the Google and Apple stores and sifted through a ton of apps that offer immersive video content just so you don’t have to – YouVisitVR was by far the best one we came across. If you’re planning on heading to Houston for next year’s Super Bowl and want to see what the city has to offer before you get there, or you’ve always wanted to zip along Ho Chi Minh’s chaotic streets in a locust-like swarm of scooters, hike the remote trails and cruise the pristine glacial waters of the Alaskan wilderness without the bears, dance like no-one’s watching to your favourite ‘guilty pleasure’ at a gloriously sunny music festival, or hover high above New York’s grid of streets and iconic skyline in a helicopter – this app has it all. A 2016 VR Festival award-winner, YouVisit has an easy to navigate interface and loads of cool places and amazing experiences – it even works without a headset.

Google Street View
Everyone has heard of Google’s Street View but you’ve probably used it to look at your own house or search for that cow that had its face blurred for privacy reasons. In recent years, in addition to their camera cars snapping bovine portraits, Google have taken to employing people to wander around places of interest donning massive camera backpacks and photographing important sites such as Machu Picchu, the Amazon rainforest, US National Parks, Christ the Redeemer, the River Thames and even Diagon Alley of Harry Potter fame to name but a few. You’ll need to keep your hands free to navigate the virtual world and it’s a collection of stills rather than video but it’s impossible to top in terms of the sheer number of places covered.

Here at The Black Tomato Agency, we have finally found another use for YouTube other than streaming gems from Prince’s back catalogue. Loads and loads of 360ᵒ video content. Not all of it is travel related but if you want to be reduced to a quivering wreck at your desk after an immersive zombie film trailer that’s up to you. If you’ve got an Android phone (an iOS version should be along at some point), just search for your destination + “360” or “VR” and it’s likely that there will be something to feast your eyes on (no zombie pun intended). Failing that, normal videos can still be viewed with Cardboard, it will just be turned into a giant private screen.

Destination apps
As you can imagine, tourist boards are pretty keen to get in on the VR act to showcase their destinations in the most immersive way possible without you actually taking to the skies. They are probably the best way to get inside those iconic landmarks without paying the entrance fee or dealing with actual real-life humans. Some of our personal favourite destination-specific apps cover such diverse places as the UAE, London, Paris, Tokyo, New York, Venice and the moon. Yes, the moon.

Obviously, nothing can replace actually visiting the destination, and we’d be in trouble if it could, but you’ll certainly be seeing these apps and accompanying fashionable headgear making their way into your event comms in the near future, in the meantime, we’ll gratefully accept more app submissions here.

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