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Travel & Holiday

Local start-up creates 3-D travel portal

Users get to 'fly' around 3-D-rendered models of ancient structures with the click of a mouse
The Straits Times - January 5, 2012
By: Lim Yan Liang
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Local start-up creates 3-D travel portal Mr Terence Mak, owner of 3rd Planet. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND LUI

A LOCAL start-up is using computer-game technology to provide more engaging 3-D previews of travel destinations.

The computer-based application by 3rd Planet lets users, for example, 'fly' around 3-D-rendered models of ancient structures like Nepal's 40m-tall Boudhanath Stupa with the click of a mouse, or experience the thrill of flying over fog-covered mountains to Lukla airport, the starting point for hikes to the Mount Everest base camp.

Working with the Nepal Tourism Board, 3rd Planet released the first phase of the project last month and it has attracted more than 16,000 visitors worldwide.

'How can you properly describe a 3-D world with pictures, words, maps and even video, which are all flat, two-dimensional media?' said the start-up's chief executive Terence Mak, 43.

'We want to let people look at a destination from a 3-D perspective - from all angles.'

The Unity game engine the application is written with is used for 3-D games such as Battlestar Galactica Online. The company pays an annual fee to use the engine.

Established players in the travel industry here have also recognised the need to do more to hook customers.

'We already know we cannot neglect the online-savvy, who are doing most of their bookings not with primarily brick-and-mortar shops like ours, but on the Internet,' said Ms Alicia Seah, senior vice-president of marketing and public relations at CTC Travel.

It recently acquired an 80 per cent stake in Misa Travel, which runs ticketing portals including airfares.com.sg and hotels.com.sg

Other agencies embracing Web technology include Chan Brothers, which ran an iPhone game-based contest last year.

But Mr Robert Khoo, chief executive of the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore, said more can be done.

'The trend today is of more people travelling free-and-easy rather than on guided tours. If there are tools that can enhance the experience, I think they are definitely worth investing in,' he said.

Mr Mak's vision of a more multi-dimensional and compelling travel experience has led to the three-year-old company attracting more than $1 million in funding from the Media Development Authority and private investors.

He said the firm is talking to the Singapore Tourism Board about replicating the Nepal project locally. Proposals are also in the pipeline for eight other destinations.

'The platform has many capabilities for the travel industry, and this is only a preview of things to come,' said Mr Mak.

Those who would like to try out the portal can visit www.3rdplanet.com.

 

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