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Merging technology with tourism

Seeking to bring technology to the local tourism industry, Creative Advances Technology Sdn Bhd (CAT) is offering a series of multimedia CDs, a web portal and even a magazine through its dedicated subsidiary VirtualMalaysia.Com Sdn Bhd. VirtualMalaysia.Com kicked off in February last year by offering its series of tourism-related multimedia CDs, a tourism web portal and a bi-monthly Virtual Malaysia glossy tourism magazine – all of which draw upon CAT’s extensive pool of virtual reality (VR) scenes, 3D images, video footage, digital photographs and GIS (geographic information system) maps. The glossy Virtual Malaysia, with a cover price of RM7, is sold mainly to hotels (which give them out to guests) and travel agencies, which use them for promotional purposes. The magazine is also sold at newsstands.

The company now produces a suite of tourism-related CD-ROMs for both the PC and Apple Macintosh platforms. Respective CDs focus on different states in Malaysia and VirtualMalaysia.Com sells them to respective state governments, which distribute them to relevant agencies and interested parties. The CDs carry information on each state such as places of interest, maps and even lists of hotels, shops, malls, and places to eat. What’s interesting is that the CDs also carry information on cultural and religious festivals and the venues of related events and exhibitions. CAT’s roots in VR are evident in the places of interest featured on its CDs; each picture automatically rotates 360 degrees. Viewers can freeze the scene with a mouse click and then manually rotate, or zoom in and out of a scene. Likewise, viewers can view the rooms, lobby, cafes, restaurants and common areas of a handful of the hotels listed.

Many VR scenes are also embedded into CAT’s VirtualMalaysia web portal at www.virtualmalaysia.com, which lets viewers remotely rotate scenes on their browsers. The website also features downloadable digital pictures and video clips. The web portal appears to be more comprehensive than the CDs. Besides places of interest nationwide, the portal features historical information about Malaysia, its cabinet ministers, weather forecasts, Tourism Malaysia’s office and information on the various available modes of public transport. The portal even indicates the location of automated teller machines on a map of Malaysia. The GIS map of Malaysia lets viewers zoom in on parts of the country to get a more detailed view. Unlike raster maps which basically are graphic files, which tend to pixilate (appear blocky) when zoomed in upon, GIS maps are regenerated mathematically as one zooms in and out, thus dynamically maintaining its continuous appearence. Another advantage is that GIS maps contain embedded “live” features of roads, buildings, parks and images which pop up when the mouse pointer passes over them or when the viewer has zoomed in sufficiently for them to be relevant.

The portal currently includes a list of 1,828 ticketing counters, business centres, moneychangers, hotels, hostels and guesthouses, banks, travel agencies and specialist tour operators. Viewers can find out about festivals, arts and cultural performances, entertainment and other events taking place in town and they can order goods, and book tours at its virtual mall. Viewers can also download a selection of GIS maps of Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Seremban, Kuantan, Ipoh, Kuala Terengganu and Johor Baru to their Palm OS or Pocket PC-based PDA and view them using the Mapopolis application.