GIS Unit - Princess of Wales Conservatory, virtual tour

The virtual tour enables you to follow a route through the Princess of Wales Conservatory. By viewing a series of 360 degree panoramas, an interactive tour of the ten climatic zones of the conservatory reveals images and botanical information of the plants living inside - through a combination of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and multimedia visualisation techniques.

Kew Virtual Tour of Princess of Wales Conservatory

The virtual tour was created as a collaborative project between the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and the Department of Geomatic Engineering, at University College London.

Jon Gower designed the application as his thesis for the MSc degree in Geographic Information Science (GIS), at UCL, working closely with Justin Moat

The Panoramas

The panoramas were recorded with a KODAK DC-260 digital camera, between the months of April and July, 1999. These images were subsequently "stitched" together into a series of 360-degree panoramas, using the Livepicture Photovista software. Hotspots leading to connected panoramas and botanical information were embedded within these visual scenes.


Originally the mapping component was interactive, using Geographic Information System (GIS) technology. The original GIS component within this application serves the map of the Princess of Wales Conservatory, and enables the user to interact with this map, by using the suite of map navigation tools. The GIS responds to user actions and returns the new map, based on user requests, back to the user.

Additionally, the GIS enables the user to query a plant genus location, and returns a map displaying a global distribution of the queried genus. The GIS achieves this by storing a combination of spatial and attribute data, which can be queried and displayed over the Internet. MapObjects Internet Map Server 2.0 was selected as the GIS for this application, as part of the ESRI suite of software.

The application was programmed in Visual Basic 5.0, to allow for a dynamic, bi-directional linkage between the panoramas and the GIS. Java Scripts, Java Applets and HTML were also employed at various stages of the project.

The maps

The background aerial photographs were supplied by the Geoinformation group (Cities revealed® aerial photography copyright The GeoInformation® Group, 2000). The panorama's are displayed using the excellent PMVR (Poor Mans Virtual Reality) java applet from DuckWare.

For more information see paper presented at GIS research 2000, University of York (pdf).

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