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How technology is changing travel and journalism

Traveling just got a bit more awesome thanks to new technology and tools.

Foursquare and Gowalla have made a big splash when it comes to location-based information and Yelp has revolutionized real-life travel with its online and mobile offerings, but there is even more innovation on the horizon when it comes to travel and journalism. Here are some of the latest offerings that are making the world just a bit smaller.

When it comes to travel do you have Italian tastes but a Branson budget? Thanks to interactive panoramas you can visit exotic locales around the world without leaving your home or office. For example, check out this 360° view of London or this immersive interactive of the Sistine Chapel.

Creating interactive panoramas used to mean trotting out pricey equipment, but now you can create with them with the internal controls built into newer DSLR cameras or using photo stitching software. You can also use mobile apps like the recently released 360 Panorama, available from the iTunes store for 99 cents.

If you’re more interested in fine art than the locales that contain them, you can view artwork up close and personal via similar technology. Halta Definizione allows you to view famous works like DaVinci’s The Last Supper or Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus in an interactive environment that allows you to zoom in to the tiniest detail.

A similar effect can be created using tools like Zoom.it which lets anybody embed high-resolution images that have similar zoom and pan controls.

Reinventing the travel experience isn’t limited to fine art: a new crop of apps and websites let you view the history all around you. The Museum of London’s Streetmuseum app pins historic photos onto the real life locations where they were taken. The app uses augmented reality to layer the photos on top of the image seen through the iPhone camera.

Historypin is taking a similar approach by inviting users to add historic photos to an interactive Google map. The result is almost 30,000 photos and stories that can be browsed by anyone.

Slate proved back in 2005 that podcasts could be much more than audio news stories with its Unauthorized Audio Tours of New York City museums. Instead of listening to the prepackaged audio tour provided by many museums, you can instead listen to culture critic Lee Siegel describe and comment on the museum’s offerings. The idea is still relatively untapped among newsrooms, despite its incredible simplicity.

A more recent trend among museums, tour guides, and other non-journalism outfits is to produce their own mobile apps that act as an official guide to a single or various points of interest. The Museum of Natural History in New York, for example, offers an app that includes GPS tracking, detailed information on exhibits, and bookmarking features.

If the various predictions are correct (and they are), we will not only see a growth in mobile applied to journalism, but also travel journalism in particular.

If you’re looking for additional ways to make your travel plans fun, easier, or more interesting, check out this list of ten smartphone travel apps.

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