Tuesday, December 15, 2009

MapQuest 360 View with Immersive Media

MapQuest surprised the online mapping community yesterday with the reveal of "360 View", providing 360 degree panoramic imagery of an impressive starting coverage area. 30 US cities now have 360 View coverage in an online interface similar Google Maps Street View and Bing Maps Streetside.

At the Mapquest Blog, they describe the process involved in creating the new feature:
"We have studied our industry, gleaning tidbits here and there, and polled our customer base in creating a simple, easy-to-use interface that fits seamlessly into the MapQuest mapping experience you have come to know and understand."

I have to say, I like it. The spherical orange breadcrumbs in the middle of the lane are handy for jumping a precise distance between images and the large format, side to side layout of map and image is straight forward.

The images are supplied by Immersive Media and their logo is watermarked in the corner. Immersive Media also originally supplied the imagery for Google Maps Street View, but Immersive Media also shoots 360° video, as I've mentioned here many times. Here’s a 360° video I shot while paragliding in Alaska with their Dodeca 2360 camera mounted to my helmet:


Full disclosure: I am a former employee of Immersive Media and currently work with SlopeViews, a new partner in Immersive Media's "Agent Program".
My first role at Immersive Media was as a "GeoImmersive Data Producer" on what we termed the City Collect Project. Teams of two were dispatched around North America to shoot 360° video, matched frame by frame with precision GPS coordinates. The equipment was mounted to vehicles that we drove through a carefully planned course. I shot this picture of the Immersive Media VW Beetle in Arches National Park while passing through Utah on our way from Denver to Las Vegas.

Somewhere along the way, we learned that the major corporate customer we had been doing this for was Google. In early spring 2007, my City Collect partner and I drove around the Google Campus in Mountain View, CA as part of our San Jose assignment. We were kind of wondering why there was no coordinated effort (like this one) to say hello to the Google Maps users.

On May 27, 2007, I was in an Oakwood corporate housing apartment with three other Immersive Medians preparing to head back out on to the streets of San Antonio, when we got the call that Street View had gone live. We took the day off to watch the response online. I did take the Beetle and its roof rack camera mount out to get some groceries. Only three hundred yards away from the condo, I was flagged by someone in another vehicle asking if I was working for Google. The job had changed significantly. For months we had roamed the cities, day after day, as efficiently as possible, without being noticed by anyone. Interestingly, it was mostly the homeless people that we drove by that noticed our equipment. One guy even shouted, "Big Brother is Watching!" in downtown Denver well before Street View was launched.

Shortly after, I was brought into Immersive Media's Portland offices as one of two marketing coordinators, so I didn't have to deal with the new paradigm on the road too much. After we found a blog in which someone had followed a Google Maps Street View car back to the Google campus where they were storing over thirty new Ford Focus vehicles with roof rack camera mounts, we realized that the Google deal had ended for Immersive Media.

As one of the original drivers on what became an extraordinary feature, I am elated with what Google Maps Street View, what Bing is doing with Streetside, and, now, what MapQuest has rolled out as 360 View with Immersive Media. Congratulations are indeed in order for both MapQuest and Immersive Media on staying in the game.

This development does beg the question here at the 360° Video Blog:

Will MapQuest be utilizing Immersive Media's 360° video capabilities?
Your guess is as good as mine.

Bandwidth for video on a scale that large must be a concern, but I would certainly like to see MapQuest give it a try. A portal where 360° video providers could sell rich content would make for an interesting advertising model for destinations and retailers alike.

As with all of the street-level imagery projects before MapQuest 360 View, the real congratulations go to the people in the vehicles capturing the imagery. It is not an easy job. Well done, Street Teams all. This video by Dan Meth at College Humor is for you guys:
*****Video Here****

Dan, you really nailed it.

Monday, December 7, 2009

SlopeViews @ Birds of Prey

Careful observers might have noticed 360° video cameras all over the television last weekend. Immersive Media had cameras at both the MTVu Woodie Awards and Hockey Night In Canada on Friday night. Immersive Media’s new agent, SlopeViews, lived up to their name at the Birds of Prey World Cup Ski Race event at Beaver Creek Ski Resort. I’ll be posting about each of these projects in 360° video this week, but today, I want to discuss SlopeViews.

Focused on destination resort marketing, SlopeViews is a relatively new arrival on the 360° video scene, but they have hit the ground running on a number of projects. The Birds of Prey Ski Race was an opportunity to showcase their capabilities to the snow sports industry that is gearing up for the Winter Olympics in February.

James Hay, SlopeViews CEO, tells me that they captured some amazing imagery that will bring audiences all of the energy of the event. They shot the initial build up and transformation of Beaver Creek Ski Resort, who already has some fantastic 360° video virtual tours on their website, into a World Cup venue. The Vail Valley Foundation has the time-lapse piece from the building of the Finish Stadium here and will be featuring more content in days to come.

We can look forward to seeing athlete interviews, fan rowdiness, and much more from the Birds of Prey via the SlopeViews 360° video camera and their crew of Immersive Media Producers. With backgrounds in adventure sports, media, and travel industry marketing, the SlopeViews’ team is ideally suited to bring clients and their prospective visitors the ultimate experience of a destination online and, finally, fulfill the promise of the term “virtual tour”.

And here are some photos that SlopeViews provided via their active Facebook page.