Gretchen Creekbaum: In our November 2021 newsletter, we’re pleased to present an interview with Flyover Zone’s CEO Nathanael Tavares. He will tell us about the company’s new app called Yorescape.
G: Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. Let’s start with an obvious question. How would you briefly describe Yorescape?
N: Yorescape is a streaming service that makes it possible for people to subscribe to all our virtual tours. Subscribers get the tours in one place for a low, annual price. The subscription includes a promise that we will add at least six new tours in a given year.
G: How is this different from the way Flyover Zone distributed its tours up to now?
N: Up to now, we have had to distribute individual tours through third-party stores such as Apple, Google, Oculus, and Steam. When we wanted to add new functionality to a tour, we could do so, but it would only apply to that one tour. If we wanted to apply the same feature to all of our tours, it was very time consuming to change them one-by-one. Now, with Yorescape, anytime we want to add new features, content, and functionality, they can be added to everything quickly and efficiently. We give our subscribers all our tours for a single price equivalent to what, say, our tour of just the Roman Forum cost. And since the tours are streamed, they need not be downloaded and stored on the user’s device as was necessary when we distributed the individual tours through the third-party stores.
G: So, it seems that subscription is a key feature of Yorescape.
N: Yes, you are right. In the past, by selling our tours through third-party stores, we did not know who our end users were. So, we were unable to build a community.
G: And, I think that Yorescape is really intended to create that community, isn’t it?
N: Yes, not only in the sense that Flyover Zone will be able finally to know who its users are and to communicate directly with them, but, more importantly, because Yorescape offers two new features that support community building: Group Tours and Free Roaming.
G: Could you elaborate on that?
N: Sure. “Group Tours” is our way of expressing what gamers call “multiplayer.” Until now, our tours could only be taken by a single person. With the launch of Yorescape, two, five, ten, or more people can be on any one of our tours at the same time. They can text each other, talk to each other, and each can point to a feature of interest in the surrounding scene either to make a comment or to ask a question about it. This is why we say that Yorescape is “bringing History to the Metaverse.”
G: And what is Free Roaming and why is it important for the community?
N: Until now, most of the points of interest on our tours were 360-degree panoramic images. This meant that our users could not move around the virtual spaces they were visiting: they were locked on a single point. If they clicked on the audio button in our user interface, they could hear an expert explain what they were seeing. Of course, the use of panos was not our first choice: it was forced on us for purely technical reasons: we had to create our products for the lowest common denominator of end user device to meet minimum performance requirements. Now, with Yorescape, we have started to create freely roamable spaces in our virtual environments that work even on mobile devices. This is possible on a technical level because our talented 3d artists and environment designers were able to optimize these spaces very efficiently by reducing the polygons in each model and using trim sheets to optimize textures, among the many other optimizations they applied. In the coming months, Free Roaming will help Group Tours by making it possible for the people on a tour to explore our virtual spaces together, to move close to features of interest, and to make their own comments about what they are seeing, if they so desire. Of course, we still offer expert commentary at specific points of interest. Now, users can disagree with what our experts say or add points that our experts may have left out.
G: In December 2021, if I understand it aright, Flyover Zone plans to release Yorescape Beta. What does this mean, and how does Yorescape “Beta” differ from Yorescape “pure and simple.”
N: Yorescape Beta is going to be free for the first four months. This is because Yorescape is by far the most complex piece of software we’ve created. It took our development team thousands of hours to create the application. Before we start our subscription service and charge people a fee, we want to be certain that Yorescape is robust and easy to use. For this reason, we are hoping that our followers around the world will sign up to be Beta testers and provide feedback about the app. Only when we’re certain that Yorescape is up to our high standards of quality control will we initiate the paid subscription service.
G: That makes sense. I believe I’ve heard you say that you plan to roll out the Beta version in stages. Is that right?
N: Yes, indeed. In December 2021, we’ll offer Yorescape Beta for mobile devices (iOS and Android). Then, in the first quarter of 2022, we’ll add support for PCs (Mac and Windows). Finally, after those devices are supported, we’ll take care of VR headsets such as the Oculus Quest and HTC Vive. Note that whatever device you use to take a tour, the content is the same. Creating an account on Yorescape also allows you to synchronize your progress on a virtual tour across all of our supported platforms. Note, too, that in the Group Tour mode, different participants on a tour can be using different devices.
G: What’s up with the word “Yorescape”?
N: I thought you’d never ask! This is a word we invented. It’s made of two roots: “yore,” as in “olden times,” and “scape,” as landscape or cityscape. So, the Yorescape is the revivification of the lost world of the past.
G: Thank you very much for this enlightening interview, and good luck with Yorescape Beta!
N: Thank you for the chance to provide this information to Flyover’s thousands of followers around the world. Without our talented artists, content creators, designers, scholars, software engineers, and translators, Yorescape wouldn’t have been possible. It was a significant team effort, and I want to thank everyone who helped us create this unique and innovative product ….I conclude by sending “Happy Holidays” to our team and to our loyal customers!