The Difference Between a Virtual Tour and an Interactive Map

Sky & ReflectionWhen I look at different interactive maps and virtual tours around the web, more often than not there is a very distinct difference between the two.  After all, a map is a map and a tour sometimes includes a map, but I’ve noticed that people commonly call anything a virtual tour including the following:

  • 360 degree panorama photographs
  • A video of someone walking through locations
  • Detailed text with pictures of locations
  • Pictures accompanied by an audio track of what you are viewing

Defining a Virtual Tour

As you can see by just the four examples above virtual tours can mean different things to different individuals.  If you look up the word virtual in any dictionary it has a pretty open meaning.  Dictionary.com defines the adjective virtual as:

being such in power, force, or effect, though not actually or expressly such: a virtual dependence on charity.

So yes, based on that definition pictures, video, audio and any other online elements that can create the “virtual” sensation of a tour really do count as virtual tours.

Defining an Interactive Map

Defining interactive is just as straight forward.  Once again utilizing dictionary.com there is a great definition of interactive as it pertains to the context of a map:

(of a computer program or system) interacting with a human user, often in a conversational way, to obtain data or commands and to give immediate results or updated information: For many years airline reservations have been handled by interactive computer systems.

So being interactive is virtual but being virtual isn’t always interactive. And I think that is the main point.  Someone can easily have a virtual tour inside of an interactive map but not always the other way around.  So an interactive map is always a virtual tour, but a virtual tour isn’t always an interactive map.

Power of an Interactive Map

What really makes interactive maps like our interactive campus map offering so compelling is the fact that you can have both a virtual tour and an interactive map in one!  Keeping things simple but powerful builds a strong case about why you would rather have something interactive than simply virtual.  Of course there is more programming and logic that goes into creating an interactive element, which is why you want a system that can handle the logic in place.

So if you are still curious about examples of interactive maps and virtual tours, a simple Google search on each will bring back lots of examples.  What you will notice is that some of those virtual tours will be interactive maps and very few interactive maps will make the mistake of simply calling themselves a virtual tour.  Why not go ahead and take the extra step next time you create a virtual tour and just make it an interactive map?

Photo by: samuelviani

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