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A less virtual world

Online maps are low-res, low-impact and usually low-rent. But a Christchurch company has mapped the city in high-res—including some local interiors.
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Online maps are low-res, low-impact and usually low-rent. But a Christchurch company has mapped the city in high-res—including some local interiors

You’ve heard of Second Life—an online 3D experience where you can mince around as a fruity avatar, meet people and buy virtual real estate. Tens of millions of people registered and all the major corporations, afraid of missing out, set up virtual shop. But with competition from YouTube and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, the virtual land is far from crowded.

So Boston-based EveryScape has taken a third path, creating what it calls ‘the real world online’. EveryScape is a photo-based directory that lets visitors explore real city streets, shops, bars and hotels in high resolution. Forty-one cities have been photographed so far and Christchurch is the first in Australasia, thanks to architect Jason Mill.

Scratching an itch to up-skill, Mill taught himself 3D modelling by creating digital versions of the world’s great architectural icons for Google Earth. Then he modelled all of Christchurch. When he saw US 3D guru Mok Oh put his name behind EveryScape, he took an interest.

“These are the beginnings of where the 3D web is heading,” Mill says. “3D simply means a more recognisable experience. For immersive environments, this is currently the best available.”

Mill was drawn to EveryScape because he says it’s a starting point, rather than an end point. It’s interactive; users can potentially cruise the streets of, say, Krakow on ‘autodrive’, then decide to fly into a cafe, look around and click on the menu. Or they can browse an art gallery in Santa Monica and purchase art straight off the walls.

It remains to be seen whether the EveryScape web directory will gain the mass uptake it needs to be the go-to site for consumers, but it has huge potential. If integrated with 3D models on Google Earth, EveryScape could take web surfing to a new level. But even on its own, Everyscape can be embedded into existing sites to give hospitality and retail businesses a new tool for attracting customers, both by mouse and by foot.