Go ahead — take a virtual tour of Aunt Crystal’s birthday party, complete with a hand-drawn map of the table and seating arrangement, and photos of the celebrants, the cake and a sleeping cat. Or take a walk with Charlie, a “slightly overweight Corgi,” on a virtual tour past some “magical old trees” and Mr. Hitchens’ house. Another tour features a trip from the New York City subway to Teany, a Lower East Side tea shop owned by musician Moby.
These are a sampling of the content at Mapwing.com, a Web site that functions like YouTube for virtual tours, and offers free tools to create, share and comment on the tours. Enhanced tools are available for those who want to build more professional virtual tours — a $39 per year subscription allows larger virtual tours that can be edited at any time and embedded into a personal Web site.
In addition to the personal tours content, the site also features more traditional virtual tours of for-sale homes. Users can supply their own tour maps and text, and populate the maps with clickable icons that represent photo locations. The icons display the direction of the photograph. The maps can include illustrated floor plans, aerial imagery, street maps and landscaping, for example. The free version allows users to include up to 10 photographic points per tour, an interactive map and a comment area.
The site was launched in public beta in late 2006 by Redbug Technologies, a software company based in Carlisle, Pa., and the company formally announced the launch this week.
“Mapwing.com is turning virtual tours mainstream,” said Andrew Hagenbuch, CEO and co-founder of Redbug Technologies, in a statement. “Each day, we are seeing more users share the places they love with the rest of the world. Travelers, teachers, artists, real estate agents and consumers are all giving Mapwing.com a try.”
The announcement states that the product is well suited for tourism and real estate industries, and the tours can be e-mailed, downloaded, stored on a CD and linked to from other Web sites. As of Tuesday, the site had about 1,000 users.