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A new tour is bringing the Bluenose II to the world — virtually

After successfully recreating the Maud Lewis exhibit in 3D virtual reality last year, Smarter Spaces took on a more iconic project in a 3D tour of the Bluenose II
Screen Shot 2021-07-13 at 11.38.36 AM
Screenshot of the virtual 3d tour of the Bluenose II

Amidst all the sullen pandemic news, it might have been easy to miss a historic birthday for the province of Nova Scotia: the 100th anniversary of the launch of the original Bluenose.

While that ship is long gone, its successor, Bluenose II— itself celebrating its 60th anniversary — has spent much of the pandemic tied up to a Lunenburg dock, and its summer tour as the province’s most recognized tourism ambassador has been limited to Maritime ports.

A new digital project from Smarter Spaces, in conjunction with the operators of the Bluenose II, hopes to change that. If you can’t bring the Bluenose to the world physically, you can at least do it digitally, courtesy of a full 3D virtual tour of the ship that launched earlier this month.

“We identified the Bluenose as a really great opportunity to show off Nova Scotia,” says Collin Gillis, owner and CEO of Smarter Spaces, the company that created the 3D tour. “Hopefully as COVID closes out here, it will be this kind of stuff that attracts even more tourists to come to Nova Scotia.”

But how do you recreate an iconic attraction like the Bluenose — or the Maud Lewis house, which Smarter Spaces also recreated last year early on in the pandemic — in digital form?

“There’s a lot of different technology around 3D tours,” Gillis says. In last year’s recreation of the Maud Lewis exhibit, he explains, they used a platform popular with real estate firms, which Gillis said had “a lot of limitations” in terms of customization.

“So we decided to come up with our own system. One of our technicians, who’s really tech-savvy, kind of got thrown into the fire and said ‘let’s try to develop this.’ He jumped on board, and we developed a custom platform.”

The result is a system that allows them to recreate spaces in cyberspace easily and with a great deal of customization.

“In our approach, you don’t have to scan every eight feet,” says Gillis. Using 360° cameras, “we just go in and we can get 360° panoramic photos or videos anywhere we want our technology now, using our platform allows us to go anywhere and merge them together into one.”

In some ways, it’s the culmination of a pandemic-long process for the company and its service.

Virtual tours of historical sites and tourist attractions weren’t front of mind for the company when the pandemic began, but being able to recreate cultural sites like this was an area of business that “took off” last year — but not an unwelcome one for Gillis and his company, who have found an interesting new avenue to explore, in addition to the usual corporate and industrial work they do.

“It’s a fabulous opportunity working with the executive director and with Captain Watson of the Bluenose,” Gillis says.

“What was really great is the captain went through it — we provided him with a very raw tour that allowed him to jump around the ship. … He snipped and identified every area that he felt was important, or that he gets tons of questions on, and that was how we developed the hotspots. That was really based on his experience, so it was really unique to be able to talk to him — someone who has been such an integral part of the Bluenose.”

It’s a line of business that Gillis and his company figure will be around for years to come.

He points out that so many historical sites aren’t universally accessible, so they are able to help bridge that gap for spaces where renovations are impractical. And he also expects tours like this to feature more prominently in the tourism industry down the line.

“I won’t say specifically, but we’re in talks with federal and provincial historic sites,” says Gillis. “They’re starting to recognize that it’s only going to attract more people, and that just because you went and did a tour of the Bluenose online, it doesn’t mean that you still don’t want to go and see it in person.”

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