Virtual Earth

Over the last few years many of the major real estate search sites have moved over to Google Maps from Microsoft’s Virtual Earth as their mapping API of choice (Redfin being the most recent notable defector). HomeGain, Trulia, Homefinder, Estately and others all use Google Maps. But, interestingly, both the #1 and #2 sites; and Zillow, are still Microsoft clients.

Given that, they will likely be interested to hear that Microsoft has announced that they are now rolling in Photosynth technology into the Virtual Earth platform.

Photosynth is a platform that grew out of Microsoft Live Labs (see Next Generation Virtual Tours) and allows for amazing 3D environments (“Synths”) to be stitched together out of 2D photographs.

From the press release:

Photosynth software analyzes digital photographs and generates a 3-D model by “stitching” the photos together. These models, or “synths,” can now be viewed using Silverlight technology across multiple platforms. Virtual Earth brings together features, functionality and content that help consumers, businesses, citizens and governments bring location to life. It helps businesses and governments share location-based information, build better connections with consumers or citizens, and helps organizations make better operational decisions. With the integration of Photosynth into Virtual Earth customers will be able to create detailed 3-D views of anything from places to products and from hotels to homes.

Most recently, it was used to create an immersive view of President Obama’s inauguration on called The Moment. (If you haven’t seen it, go check it out – it really is pretty amazing)

Rolling Photosynth in Virtual Earth has some pretty big implications for real estate as one could imagine a developer could take widely available assets (listing photos) and roll them into a pretty nifty 3D representation of a property that’s for sale.

You can see a sample “house Synth” on the Microsoft Virtual Earth site. (Click on the sales sheet for a really slick representation of what’s possible)

Cool factor aside. Whether or not this is a big enough feature to get some of these other sites to switch to VE, that’s another question all together.

Update: Here’s Microsoft’s video on the integration.


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