Extensive virtual tour of Birmingham is in progress

By: Mary Genson | Birmingham-Bloomfield Eagle | Published August 23, 2022


BIRMINGHAM — Everything Birmingham has to offer will soon be displayed online through 360-degree images, drone footage, videos and graphics in the Skyway Interactive virtual tour of Birmingham.

Birmingham’s communication team decided to include these additional resources on the city’s website for visitors, and future or current residents, as they will now be able to explore the city from the comfort of their own homes.

This project cost the city of Birmingham approximately $3,750.

In addition to being embedded on the city’s website, the virtual tour can be shared on social media and email through a link.

“The idea was to give people a way to virtually transport to our city,” Communications Director Marianne Gamboa said.

Skyway Interactive is a company that specializes in creating virtual tours for clients. They are known for capturing sports arenas for big names, including the University of Michigan, the Boston Red Sox, the Arizona Cardinals and more.

Since 2017, Skyway Interactive has launched over 160 virtual tours in over 28 states.

Instead of Skyway Interactive owner Jake Donahue flying out to shoot each location, clients of Skyway Interactive are sent a user-friendly camera to capture images that can be uploaded and used to build the virtual tour. “I’ve made it easy enough that anyone can do it,” Donahue said.

Each kit sent to a client contains a Ricoh Theta Z1 360-degree camera, a tripod and accessories. Currently, 32 different Skyway Interactive camera kits are floating around the country.

There are several benefits of having a virtual tour available for visitors and residents, city officials said.

“Looking at a map or a video is one thing, but when you can do a self-guided tour you can really familiarize yourself before you even get there,” Donahue said.

Gamboa said they also plan to feature city facilities. For example, there will be a way to choose to virtually enter the The Birmingham Museum.

During the virtual tour inside the museum, there is the option to add video and information pings to add an additional educational element.

Visitors are not the only ones who can learn from these tours. There is a lot of history and information that even longtime residents may not be aware of, city officials said.

“Even for residents that have lived here for a long time, I think a lot of people do not know all of the history that is here,” Gamboa said.

While the company has done several interactive tours, Birmingham is the first city to hire Skyway Interactive to create a virtual tour.

Donahue said he has been in contact with other cities he plans to potentially work with in the future.

Gamboa said they plan to launch the Skyway Interactive virtual tour in the fall. Once the virtual tour is ready, it can be found on the City’s website.