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Helsinki: virtual capital of the world?

Helsinki already has a significant start-up culture and wants to be the city that "best capitalises" on digitisation, says its mayor

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Virtual Helsinki will be made available next year in different parts of the world
Virtual Helsinki will be made available next year in different parts of the world

Helsinki is working on a virtual city experience project in a bid to become the “virtual capital of the world”.

 

A dozen leading virtual reality (VR) developers have descended on the Finnish capital city to finalise the Helsinki-themed virtual content which will be executed in co-operation with VR-studio, Zoan.

 

Urban Helsinki and the sea

 

Virtual tourism has, reportedly, become extremely popular globally and Helsinki wants to be at the forefront of the development. The virtual reality themes constructed so far are ‘urban Helsinki’, ‘the sea’ and ‘design’.

 

The final result will be revealed in December 2018 at the start-up and tech event Slush, where it will be shown through a VR headset with “eye-precision capability”, manufactured by Helsinki-based Varjo.

 

The concept of the VR experience and the groundwork for a virtual Helsinki was made by Helsinki-based VR studio Zoan, which is also hosting a developer sprint in the city. Many game houses, such as Ubisoft and Supermassive Games, are represented in the international team. The task of the team is to fine-tune the virtual experience and make it as realistic as possible.

According to the plan, virtual Helsinki will be made available next year in different parts of the world, for example in specific public spaces and arcades as well as in VR stores for VR headsets.

"A virtual experience representing top quality is a good example of how Helsinki can be sensed in a new way”

“Our goal is to come up with the world’s most realistic VR experience. The soundscape and the visual quality are important factors in reaching a realistic mood, when the reference point consists of existing environments. The latter is emphasised, as Varjo’s VR headset offers an exceptionally high-resolution. Only a skilled 3D artist is able to make, for example, realistic water or a wooden surface,” said Miikka Rosendahl, founder and CEO, Zoan, about the reasons for the attendance of the international developers.

 

He continued: “By means of virtual tourism, the globe can cope with the gigantic growth of tourism. It also offers a travelling opportunity for billions of people who cannot do it due to financial or physical reasons.”

 

After the Helsinki visit, the team continues its journey to Savonlinna, to brainstorm new purposes of use for the Retretti caverns by means of virtual technologies.

 

According to the city, the realisation of this project is intended to be one step in a bigger scheme.

“Helsinki wants to be the city in the world that best capitalises on digitalisation and the city is already a significant centre for start-up culture and [augmented reality] AR/VR development,” said Jan Vapaavuori, mayor of Helsinki.

 

“At its best, digitalisation is [offering] increasingly successful services for the citizens and a better Helsinki experience for tourists. A virtual experience representing top quality is a good example of how Helsinki can be sensed in a new way.”

 

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