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Halifax start-up creates 3D virtual tour of Maud Lewis exhibit

Smarter Spaces has found new business opportunities during the COVID-19 shutdown
042920 - art gallery of ns maud lewis 3d tour
Peeking into Maud Lewis's house on the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia's 3D virtual tour, put together by Halifax start-up, Smarter Spaces (

The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia may be closed, but you can still tour the Maud Lewis exhibit from the comfort of your own home.

It's all thanks to a Halifax start-up called Smarter Spaces, which used 3D scanning technology to create the virtual tour.

"It's really like being there," said Colin Gillis, a principal with the company. "You have a 360 view around you."

"It really is breathtaking to see it when you're sitting at home on your computer, but also if you take the next leap and put it into [a VR headset], you have to be careful you don't trip, it's that real."

A virtual tour of the Art Gallery's Shifting Ground exhibit is also available, which showcases Indigenous art across Canada.

Prior to the pandemic, Smarter Spaces did a lot of work with local developers. Staff would take their technology into a building under construction and scan the area before crews added the drywall and ceiling.

"We go in and capture everything behind the wall, so 5 years from now if a pipe leaks, you know exactly where to find it," Gillis told NEWS 95.7's The Sheldon MacLeod Show.

However, with many projects on hold due to COVID-19, the company had to change its course to keep its 8 employees working.

"We recognized we have all these empty buildings and all these people sitting at home," Gillis explained.

In addition to the art gallery, Smarter Spaces has found other work to keep staff busy during the COVID-19 shutdown.  Halifax's Sacred Heart School hired the company to scan its building so prospective students and their families can tour the facilities.

This weekend staff will be at the East Peak Climbing Gym at the old Oxford Theatre to set up a 3D virtual tour of that business.

"This has taken off so fast that we've even had calls nationally from companies like Labatts," said Gillis. "The next step in this would be adding e-commerce to our 3D virtual tours so that you could tour a business and actually start purchasing things."

The company is also talking to Parks Canada about a potential scan of the Fortress of Louisbourg.

"We haven't got the go-ahead on that but they're quite interested in looking at the opportunities for virtual tours because nobody really knows when things will open up," Gillis said.

"It also offers an additional opportunity, not only for Parks Canada, but for any site to enrich accessibility," he added. "There's definitely some forts and sites across the country that are not easily accessible to people."

Smarter Spaces is hoping to expand on opportunities in the tourism sector, especially here in Nova Scotia. However, Gillis said the challenge is funding. 

"There are numerous cultural museums and different sites around the province that are interested in doing this, but like everyone else, they're cash strapped," he said.

The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia scans were made possible due to a sponsorship from BMO and Gillis hopes other large companies will see the value in funding similar virtual tours.

"I think this could be a good way to pre-sell things before travel and the borders open up again," he said. "We could attract a lot of attention."

"We really want to bring the best of Nova Scotia to the world."


Meghan Groff

About the Author: Meghan Groff

Born in Michigan, raised in Ontario, schooled in Indiana and lives in Nova Scotia; Meghan is the editor for CityNews Halifax.
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