Volcanic Virtual Reality: Get Ready to Tour Santorini Like Never Before

A new scientific project will soon make exploring Santorini possible from anywhere in the world.

Can a volcano that erupted more than 3,600 years ago really compete for the attention of a tourist visiting one of the most romantic and Instagrammable travel destinations in the world? After all, with all the exciting things to experience on the beautiful island of Santorini, what’s so special about volcanic rocks and steaming fumaroles?

Paraskevi Nomikou certainly thinks the volcano has plenty to offer. She is an assistant professor in Geological Oceanography and Natural Geography at the University of Athens, and has devoted herself to the study of submarine volcanism around Santorini.

In fact, she considers it so fascinating that she and her team are currently developing an integrated platform called VirtualDIVER that will use augmented and virtual reality technologies to make the volcano, and other areas of Santorini, accessible even to those who aren’t able to visit the island.

Imagine, for instance, sitting back at home on a cold winter night planning your summer vacation to Santorini and wishing you could get a clearer sense of the island in order to better prepare for your trip. With the help of VirtualDIVER and some virtual reality equipment, you could be transported to the island, flying over small white churches and rock-hewn houses, past volcanic rocks and across active craters, making you feel as if you’re actually there.

The system will also help those who visit the island in person. If, for instance, you’re hiking across Santorini’s countryside and you come across an ancient ruin or an unfamiliar flower, you can simply point your mobile device’s camera at your discovery, and the VirtualDIVER app will access expert knowledge and an abundance of multimedia information to let you know more about what you’re looking at, making your experience more complete and more satisfying.

Perhaps the most impressive ability of the app is the one that puts the “dive” in VirtualDIVER. Let’s say you’re not a great swimmer, or even comfortable out in deep water, but you wish you could explore it nonetheless. With the help of this app, you can take a virtual deep breath and head underwater, among the colorful denizens of the Aegean Sea. Swim alongside a wide variety of fish as you head even deeper, all the way down to areas of the seafloor otherwise accessible only to underwater vehicles engaged in costly research and scientific missions.

VirtualDIVER is being developed in collaboration with the Remote Sensing Laboratory of the National Technical University of Athens and the companies TETRAGON, STEFICON and Up2metric.

It will be completed in 2021, and piloted in 2020.

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