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UPEI students pair up to create virtual reality tour business and drone photography

Mike Thompson, left, and Evan Hawley with some of their demo VR headgear. The gear is compatible with phones allowing you to stream a virtual tour on the go.
Mike Thompson, left, and Evan Hawley with some of their demo VR headgear. The gear is compatible with phones allowing you to stream a virtual tour on the go.

Mike Thompson and Evan Hawley are hoping to bring new services to the virtual reality world on P.E.I.

Thompson, a 19-year-old Summerside native, and Hawley a 21-year-old from Halifax, are the founders of Odyssey Virtual, a virtual reality, 360 imagery and Drone Company. The pair are business students at the University of Prince Edward Island, in Charlottetown.

“I was working with an engineering club that was building this vehicle. I was in charge of putting together a marketing platform. I decided to buy a drone and 360 cameras and was going to use it to get footage of it,” explained Hawley.

While he did use the 360 cameras, he didn’t get the chance to use the drone. That was when he approached Thompson with an idea.

Thompson liked it.

“We both wanted to start our own company one day. And we knew what we offer is available in other provinces so why can’t we be the ones to start it here?”

Odyssey Virtual works with clients who are interested in drone photography and 360 images to design a virtual tour and marketing strategy to draw interest into a company or industry.

But Hawley and Thompson didn’t stop there.

“We’ve put the images through a software that makes it compatible with virtual reality equipment. Clients can request a foldable head gear that we get and can customize it to have whatever designs they want,” Thompson explained.

Instead of watching a video, people can get a virtual feel for a house or an environment.”

“It’s really great, say if you’re looking for a house. Traditionally the way to see a house is to request a viewing and see it in person. But if you don’t live near it, you can’t. But now you can. There are prompts that allow you to travel through different rooms of the home and zoom in and out,” Hawley said.

The footage can be viewed like a normal 360 video often seen on Facebook.

The process begins when they hear from a business that is interested in developing a virtual tour.

“We meet with them and show them what we can do. Then we set up a date that would work to collect the images. We go to the space or property and get all the images and put them through our software and build it into a tour.

“We can also modify it to how the clients want it. If they like it, it’s theirs and can be distributed on all platforms including Kijiji and Air B&B, Facebook and other media,” explained Thompson.

Meanwhile, they are trying to optimize the time it takes to produce the finished product.

“We want to get down to being able to complete it in 24 hours. We’re close to getting there,” said Hawley.

As beginning businessmen, they agree the experience was as influential as going to school.

“We’re each taking four courses but we know we can work together to continue this business. As an entrepreneur, there are so many small details. You are responsible for everything. You have to look after everything as a whole and prioritize. It’s very meticulous,” said Hawley.

Thompson is looking forward to being able to give back to Island businesses and communities.

“I think it will be really great for P.EI. and it will give people the chance to see what we can offer,” said Thompson.

Five Fast Facts about Odyssey Virtual

– Co-Owner: Mike Thompson, Summerside, 19

– Co-Owner: Evan Hawley, Halifax, 21

– Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OdysseyVirtual/

– Website: www.odysseyvirtual.ca

– Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/odysseyvirtual/

millicent.mckay@journalpioneer.com

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