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Freeman enhances virtual planning with drone technology

Freeman, the leading global partner for integrated marketing solutions for live engagements, announced unprecedented enhancements to PLANTOUR by tapping drone technology to bring real-life views of meeting spaces and facilities.

Part of the Freeman Technology Suite for 14 years, PLANTOUR is a Web-based tool that enables exhibitors, show organizers, marketers, event planners and meeting managers to experience and virtually tour event venues across North America. With this tool, industry professionals can view floor plans, see meeting room configurations or plan for available sponsorship opportunities from a tablet, computer or smartphone.

Enhancements to the PLANTOUR microsite began last fall with UX improvements for easy site navigation. This spring, the firm made use of drone technology to capture multiple facility views that were immediately converted to a high-definition virtual tour, providing a new experience for Freeman clients.

“By improving key features and functionality within PLANTOUR, we make it easier for meeting planners and show organizers to plan their events and to maximize sponsorship revenue while providing exhibitors with an easy way to view and purchase those sponsorship opportunities,” said William Collins, vice president of product development, Freeman.

Depending upon the venue, PLANTOUR users will be able to experience the space through layering technology – a combination of fly-through videos, user controlled 360 degree imagery with interactive hotspots, photo galleries and 2D and 3D facility renderings.

Extending the tool would allow more planners to effectively use PLANTOUR for planning and executing events. Providing a fully immersive, multi-virtual experience, exterior and interior views include “in room” images where planners can zoom and pan to see the meeting space.

At premier hotels, partnerships with Encore Group, an audio-visual production company, have provided an onsite presence to assist in creating the multi-virtual experience. Involving the facilities in the making of the multi-virtual experience helps to better market their space since planners’ decisions depend on the sales team at facility, according to Collins.

“We recognize that we must continue to make investments in our technology solutions to meet the needs of our customers, becoming a true extension of their marketing and operations teams,” Collins added.

While the videography and photography are exclusive to Freeman through PLANTOUR, facility websites are able to link planners to the PLANTOUR tool to explore the multi-virtual experiences.

PLANTOUR users will see one of three experiences: the Premium Tour includes drone video, 3D renderings, 360 degree imagery and still photos; the Expanded Tour includes 3D renderings, 360 degree imagery and still photos; and the General Tour includes 3D renderings and still photos.

Freeman plans on updating videos, images and information on more than 65 facilities in the U.S. and Canada. Around 15 to 20 facilities are expected to be added by the end of 2014, with discussions to bring in two to three facilities in the UK where Freeman has an international office.

Partnering with a Dallas-based vendor, the first virtual experience was completed at Omni Hotel in Dallas. In eight hours, the commissioned videographer captured approximately three hours of content, editing and completing all visualizations within three weeks. Producing several versions, the footage was condensed into a short, comprehensive 3-minute video of the facility’s hotel lobby, hallways and meeting rooms.

Already available on PLANTOUR are virtual experiences for around six facilities with plans to update the top 15 facilities with six to nine months.

While the tool does not eliminate site visits altogether, it helps meeting and event planners to narrow their choices and limit the number of site visits to ultimately save time and money during the site selection process. Freeman has plans to continue enhancing virtual tools as the technology develops in the future.

For more information on PLANTOUR, visit plantour.com to register for login credentials.

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