The online mapping stuff just keeps getting better.
A company called EveryScape is launching on Monday a three-dimensional local search site that lets people "drive" down streets and even "walk" into buildings.
If you thought Google's Street View was cool, wait until you see how you can ski down the slopes in Aspen, Colorado, or whiz over taxicabs and pedestrians through the streets of New York, Boston, and Miami. The inside views of buildings are only available in Miami and Aspen right now.
The visuals are stunning as you fly through the front doors of hotels, bars, and other buildings and turn around for a 360-degree view. It reminds me of a video game or a virtual reality environment, only everything here is real.
The site lets you choose one of the four featured cities and browse by popular places and categories like nightlife, beaches, shopping, and arts and performances. Or you can type in an address or business name and a photo of the location appears next to a Google map window.
You can click anywhere in the map to be taken to a spot. You also can navigate by using the "auto drive" button and get a tour of the neighborhood as if you were a passenger in a cab, watching the sights go by. Or you can click the "you drive" button and take the controls, clicking on an orange arrow to proceed forward and using the mouse to change direction or glance up.
It's really fun to zip around like this. I checked to see if one of my favorite restaurants in Boston's North End called The Daily Catch was still around. It was, though when the photo was taken there wasn't a line out the door like there usually is. I also enjoyed just being a passenger and getting a tour of the city with the auto drive function. This would be a great way to check out a city you don't know, look at neighborhoods, and see what hotels and restaurants are like before traveling.
There are some other cool features, such as links to Flickr, Yelp, Wikipedia, YouTube, and Yahoo Local for the locations. In one click, you can go from a view of Central Park on EveryScape to a page with photos of the park on Flickr or related videos on YouTube.
Besides the ability to tour the insides of buildings, what makes EveryScape different from other 3D local search sites, like Google Street View and Microsoft Street Side, is the business model. EveryScape is cutting deals with businesses to create the tours inside the buildings, instead of just showing ads on the map.
For example, a company can pay $180 a year to get a business listing displayed along with a photo of the outside of the business. For $250 a year, a business can get one inside photo, or pay $400 for two photos and $500 for three photos. More extensive inside tours have custom pricing. So far, hundreds of businesses in Miami and Aspen have signed up, but I'm not totally convinced that this will be hugely popular for marketers.
When viewing the inside of a building, the map window changes from a city view to a blueprint of the layout of the building or room. As you move through the building, the map changes to reflect where you are. Very neat!
"Unlike Google and Microsoft who are driving big expensive video cameras up and down streets, we're just buying regular (digital SLR Canon Rebel) cameras you can get at Costco," says Jim Schoonmaker, president and chief executive of EveryScape. EveryScape has turned the photos it has captured of the cities into a 3D environment.
EveryScape doesn't allow people to zoom in, as Google does, so there aren't any privacy concerns from getting close enough to see people's faces or license plate numbers.
The site plans to add inside views to buildings in Boston and New York in the future and will expand to other cities as well. The company has already created a street-only "preview" site for part of San Francisco and will launch a full site there soon, Schoonmaker says.
You can see a demo video of EveryScape here.