Monday, October 15, 2018

360 Degree Learning with Google Tour Creator

Google has a rich history of creating map-related tools that can be used across all subject areas for engaging, immersive learning experiences. Some of these include Tour Builder, Earth, Expeditions, My Maps, and many more (see my slideshow on Google mapping tools).

Recently Google has launched a new tool called Google Tour Creator. This tool allows you and your students to create 360 degree tours, which can then be shared with and viewed by others. It is very much like creating your own Google Expeditions.

Don't have a 360 degree camera? That's ok! Although you can use a 360 degree camera to take pictures for Tour Creator, you can also just use the images from Google's Street View, or you can use a free mobile app such as Cardboard Camera to take the photos.

Tour Creator can be a powerful way for students to demonstrate their understanding, learn from others, and put themselves inside of a virtual experience. Tours could cover:
  • Scenes from a novel
  • Locations from a historical event
  • Biomes from around the world
  • Highlights of a city in a different country
  • Biographical information from a person's life
  • A student-written fictional story
  • And much more!

In this post we will explore Google Tour Creator and detailed directions on how you and your students can create your own tours today.

Session Resources

What is Tour Creator?

As mentioned above, Google Tour Creator is an online tool that lets you and your students create immersive 360 degree tours which can be shared with and viewed by others. The tour will be made of multiple scenes, each of which can contain:
  • 360 degree images
  • Voice narration
  • Text descriptions
  • Points of interest
  • Image overlays

The 360 degree images that are used to create the tour can come from several sources including:
  • A 360 degree camera
  • The Google Cardboard Camera mobile app
  • Google Street View

When the tour is done and shared, it can be viewed in many different ways including:
  • On your normal computer screen
  • Embedded in a website
  • On a mobile device
  • With Google Cardboard on a VR headset (for a more immersive experience)

Playing Sample Tours

To learn how to use this awesome tool, I took some time to create a tour of my own. The educational service center I work at, SPARCC, recently moved to a new location, so I thought it would be beneficial to create a virtual tour of our new place.

If you would like to try out the sample tour I created, you can use the link below:

If you would like to explore tours created by other people, you can browse through a wide variety of tours on Google's Poly website at:

While playing the tour, here are a few options for navigating and controlling the tour. You can:
  • Click the gear icon in the top right corner to turn narration on or off. and to turn the ambient audio on or off.
  • Click the full-screen button to switch between full-screen and windowed view.

  • Click the scene title at the bottom to view notes for that scene.
  • Click the arrows at the bottom to move back and forth between scenes.

Additionally if you are on a mobile device, you can:
  • Click the cardboard button to switch to VR mode (and then put your phone inside a Google Cardboard viewer).
  • Click the 360 degree button to switch how you move the view (dragging with your finger or moving the mobile device)

Creating a Tour

Now that you have had a chance to try our a tour or two, how about creating one of your own? Here's how:

  • You can now click "New tour" to start with a blank tour, or you can click "Templates" if you would like to make a copy of an already existing tour (sometimes this can be helpful when first learning the tool to see what other people have made).

For these directions we will go with clicking on "New tour" to start blank.
  • You will now get a page where you can enter the basic information for your tour.
  • You can give your tour a title.
  • Optionally, you can add a description and choose a category.

  • Finally, you can add a cover photo for your tour by dragging and dropping an image or uploading a picture.
  • When ready, click "Create".

Adding a Scene

Now that you have your tour created, you can begin adding scenes. The "Add scene" window should open up by default, but if it does not you can simply click the "Add scene" link in the bottom left corner. You can add a scene in two ways:

  • Searching Google Street View
  • Uploading a 360 degree photo

Adding a Scene from Street View

Through Street View, Google has collected a massive amount of 360 degree photos from all around the world. These have come from Google's Street View cars, as well as people carrying a Street View camera into difficult-to-reach locations. So even if you do not have your own 360 degree camera, you can still use the millions of photos available from Google.

In the "Street View" tab, do the following:
  • Type in an address to search.
  • Drag the "pegman" icon around the map to anywhere with blue lines or circles (which indicate places where Street View images exist).
  • Click "Add scene" when done.

Uploading an Image for a Scene

In addition to the existing Street View images, you can also upload your own 360 degree photos.

If you wish to use a 360 degree camera to take the pictures, here are some that are currently approved to work with Tour Creator:
  • Ricoh Theta S, V, or SC
  • LG 360 camera
  • Mi Xiaomi Sphere 360
  • Insta 360 one
  • Samsung Gear 360

If you do not have a 360 degree camera, that is still ok, since you can actually just use your phone. There are many apps that will allow your phone to take a 360 degree picture. Usually the app will have you turn around in a circle while it takes a bunch of pictures, then it will stitch those images together into a 360 degree photo.

One great mobile app for this is Cardboard Camera from Google. You can download this free app with the links below:

Editing a Scene

Now that you have added a 360 degree photo to create a scene, you can edit several aspects of the scene. This can include text, audio, points of interest, image overlays, and more. See below for details on how to do this.

Adding Text and Audio

In the top right corner of the scene you can type in text for the following items:
  • Title
  • Location
  • Description
  • Credits

In addition to typing in text, you can also add audio to the scene. This allows you to add narration for the scene, such a reading what you typed for the description, or adding ambient sounds from the location. To add audio, click the buttons below the text boxes:
  • Add ambient audio (10 to 30 seconds)
  • Add scene narration

At the moment, Tour Creator does not have an option for recording your audio in the program, so you will need to record and save your sound files ahead of time using some other tool. The files must be saved in MP3 format.

There are many options for recording audio depending on the type of device you are using. If you are looking for something free and web-based (such as for a Chromebook) here are two that I have used and can recommend:

Voice Recorder -
  • Click the mic button to start recording.
  • Click the stop button when done.
  • Trim the start and end if needed.
  • Click "Save".
  • The MP3 file will be downloaded.

TwistedWave -
  • Free for up to 5 minutes at a time
  • Can download as MP3
  • Has advanced editing tools
  • Works on Chromebooks
  • Works with Google Drive

Adding Points of Interest

You can also add points of interest to a scene. This will place an "i" icon on a spot you choose in the scene to highlight something. You can then add text, audio, and even an image to the point of interest to provide additional information to the viewer. Here's how:
  • Click "Add point of interest".
  • Drag the "i" icon to a spot in the scene.
  • Type in a title.
  • Type in a description.

Optionally, you can also add audio and an image overlay to the point of interest:

  • Add sight narration - Click this button to upload an MP3 audio file as before.
  • Add image overlay - Click this button to upload a picture to display when the point of interest is selected.

Managing Scenes

After you have created a scene, you can continue to add more scenes with the "Add scene" link at the bottom. Once you have several scenes, they will be listed in a strip at the bottom of the screen. You can manage them as follows:
  • Click the 3-dots button next to a scene title to move scene left or right.
  • Click the trash can icon below a scene title to delete a scene.

Publishing a Tour

When you have finished creating your tour, it is now time to publish it. It is necessary to publish the tour for people to be able to view it, including yourself. Here's how:

  • First click the "Publish" button. 
  • If you are editing your tour, the publish button will be at the top. 
  • If you are on the Tour Creator home page, the publish button will show up on the title card for your tour.
  • For the "Visibility" option, you need to choose if your tour is publicly searchable or if people need you to give them the link to view the tour.
  • If you choose "Public" then people can search for your tour on the Poly website.
  • If you choose "Unlisted" then people will need you to provide the link to the tour to be able to view it.
  • Click "Publish" when done.

Your tour will now be published and ready to be viewed!
  • You can copy the link for the tour to give to people so they can view the tour.
  • Or you can click "View tour" to view the tour yourself.

Note: If you edit the tour later to make new changes, you will need to publish the tour again to update those changes in the published version. The published link will not change.

Sharing a Tour

After your tour has been published you can share it with others so they can view it. If you copied the link for your tour as described above, you can simply give that link to others for them to view the tour. If not, you can share the tour as follows:

  • From Tour Creator, locate your tour.
  • Click the three-dots button.
  • Choose "View published tour".

  • Once the tour opens, click the "Share" link.
  • From here you can copy the link to give to others.
  • Or click any of the social media buttons to share the link that way.
  • Or you can click the "Embed" button to get code to add the tour to a website.

If you are using the new version of Google Sites, your tour can be embedded right in the Site. From Google Sites you can:
  • Click the "Embed" button in the "Insert" panel.
  • Paste the code in the "Embed Code" window.
  • Click "Next" and "Insert".
  • Adjust the size of the embedded tour as needed.

As an example, here is a demo Google Site with my sample tour embedded: Google Site example


With Tour Creator, Google provides another engaging tool for creativity and learning. Students can come face-to-face with experiences from the other side of the world, or tell a story from their own town.

If your students create projects with Tour Builder, please consider sharing their work in the comments below, as well as publishing to the Poly website for students everywhere to enjoy.

Post by Eric Curts. Bring me to your school, organization, or conference with over 50 PD sessions to choose from. Connect with me on Twitter at and on Google+ at

1 comment:

  1. This is a fantastic tutorial Eric. Thanks so much.