HomePlan NZ has created what may be the first 3D virtual dining experience based on Wellington's renowned Jackson Street.

The digital virtual experts have successfully captured over 30 establishments, providing customers with the ability to take a virtual tour of restaurants in the area before calling in to book. The 3D tour of the premises is available on the company's website. It can be viewed through a web browser, mobile phone or, for a more immersive experience, Virtual Reality (VR) headsets. The tour includes restaurant chains like Hell Pizza, Mexico, Pita Pit as well as several local cafes.

Although the technology behind 3D Virtual Tours has been around for almost 25 years, presenting it as a tool to elevate a customer's dining experience remains unexplored.

Scott MacKenzie, director of HomePlan NZ and leader of the exploration, believes that the growing demand for the service has mainstream potential.

"Having a virtual dining or venue hire experience available is a growing expectation of today's tech-savvy generation," said MacKenzie. "With the increasing number of 3D walkthrough applications appearing in real estate, exhibitions, design and construction; when people want to go out to eat somewhere new, they will likely start their journey online."

MacKenzie further explained that the future of virtual tours not only relies on people's personal experiences but as a true digital twin, have the potential to be utilised by businesses to protect their assets and investments.

“It is already becoming prominent to the point of consumers moving on from ‘Oh great, you have a 3D virtual tour!’, to them starting to ask others ‘Why don’t you have a 3D virtual tour?’”.

According to HomePlan NZ, the 3D walkthrough experience has allowed customers to check out the ambience and facilities of the participating establishments, which in turn has saved business owners from 'tyre-kickers' and the like. After spending the majority of 2019 researching service development and fine-tuning its virtual tours to suit the local market, the company is gearing up to enter new territories.

"What we have done in Jackson Street demonstrates the success of the time we have invested," added MacKenzie. "Now it's time to take this concept wider, to other dining establishments in Wellington, and, through our growing national network, all of New Zealand."