RRC alumni creates new Panoramic App

Erin Debooy, News Editor




What started as a video game design has developed into something bigger. About 360 degrees bigger.

Red River College alumni Daniel Blair, alongside a team of RRC international students from Brazil, were working on a game for Apprenticeship Manitoba when they created a whole new product of their own.

Michael Farris, manager of Learning Technologies at RRC, hired Blair’s company Bit Space Development because he needed a game geared toward junior high students. The game needed to be designed so it could be played on top of a 360-degree panorama.

As the project developed, Farris said it became clear the game was just a small part of what could be done.

“Every week, when I came in for a progress report, they had new ideas and suggestions,” Farris said. “They came up with a lot of things I had never even heard of.”

And so PanoPla was born, a content management system for building virtual reality environments.

Or as Blair puts it, a YouTube for spherical panoramas.

“You can take a picture with your phone and turn it into a spherical panorama,” he said. “Anybody can be the author of their own virtual tours, whether it be on a mobile device, a website or a virtual reality.”

Farris said he’s excited to watch PanoPla develop into a commercial product.

“Sharing photos is nothing new. Now we can share panoramas that have hot spots in them and we can make these panoramas do different things,” Farris said. “You can invite people to explore your world.”

There is competition in the market for hosting panoramas, but nothing in regards to the social aspect of PanoPla and its simple game engine.

“PanoPla has a social component where you can follow other photographers and comment on their work,” Blair said. “It also becomes a really good opportunity to host your own panoramics without getting your own server to do it.”

Although the opportunities for PanoPla in the market are endless, Blair said he wants to gear it toward education and exploration.

“You can learn about a medical lab, for example, you can learn the safety hazards, see where everything is and know your surroundings before ever stepping foot inside,” Blair said.

The game created for Apprenticeship Manitoba does just that, said Farris. Junior high students can explore Manitoba sites and see what the world of trades looks like without leaving the classroom.

Blair and his team are currently working on a mobile app for Android and iOS. Private beta testing will start within the next few weeks and the first version of PanoPla is expected to be available by the end of the semester.