Monday, January 23, 2006

A virtual stroll in the neighbourhood

The largest real estate site in the Netherlands Funda will launch a new feature today. It is not Google Earth being applied to houses on sale. It is more modest, but still interesting. It is the virtual stroll in the neighbourhood. It is an interesting extra feature, which saves many trips, when you are in the process of house hunting. By pushing the neighbourhood button, you can see how the house is situated and automatically a series of photographs of the street will pop up.

© Funda/Cyclomedia

Presently the site offers 15 million photographs, produced by Cyclomedia. In the end there will be a database with some 21 million pictures. Cyclomedia is still touring around and taking photographs. Cyclomedia delivers the database to Funda, but has already some other applications for the photograph database such as local tax assessment.

It is a smart idea to produce VRML photographs of just about every road in the Netherlands. VRML is new to the idea; the idea itself dates back to 1989. In that year the Dutch incumbent telco PTT Telecom started to promote ISDN. They had a special demonstration centre in Rotterdam, where they showed that you could talk to a person and send a fax at the same time. They also had CD-ROMs with film of houses and streets. Real Estate brokers could use these CD-ROMs to give potential buyers an impression over the ISDN lines (given that the potential buyer had ISDN). The company that had produced these films, had a van built with cameras on all four sides. The van would go to a city, town or village and systematically drive through it. Then the movies were copied to the CD-ROM with software of the company CD Europe (C-Content these days). With ISDN the broker could send a sequence of pictures to the potential buyer.

I never heard anything about the project any more. So I take it that it never became commercial. It is a rather expensive project. It takes a lot of time and you will have to do it over at least every two years. The same goes for Cyclomedia. But as they have more projects using the same photo database, they will make money out of it.


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