I was looking for a way to tour Machu Picchu without having to actually go there (for various reasons including cashflow, effort, free time). Initially the closest thing I could find was actually a combination of static map and some of those 360 degree photos all stitched together. I wanted to walk down the Inca Trail a bit, look up and see a condor overhead, feel the vertigo of the drop to my right, etc.
It wouldn’t be very efficient to have to add these sorts of actions to a video, so my next thought was that a 3D engine might be a good way to allow some freedom in this sort of environment. Although modeling an entire UNESCO World Heritage Site would be no mean feat (and it would have to do it justice to be worth it), after that it would be relatively easy to add a few actors and some sound effects.
However, searching on the 3D theme, there’s an application called Vizerra that (thanks to some hefty downloads) offers 3D tours of Machu Picchu and a number of other landmarks that has sound effects, built in guided tours and there are a few other places you can download and visit too. At the very least it gives you a good feel for the scale of the place, and I can’t wait to try out some of the other locations available. This is no holodeck — I doubt there will ever be a technology that can feel same as actually visiting a place (for a start in many cases you should have to go through a trek to get there, to appreciate it) but this doesn’t hurt as a mildly informative distraction.
(Note: Vizerra crawls on my HP550 laptop, which is to be expected since in a 3D graphics sense it’s well below the minimum specs, but if anyone knows of a low-spec alternative then please leave a note in the comments… on a side-note, whatever happened to VRML?)