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What is RealPlaces?
RealPlaces lets anyone easily create and share first-person panoramic walkarounds of any real place in the world.

It's like making your own personal StreetView places.

Urban, rural, indoors, outdoors, at your home or off the beaten path -- anywhere of interest!

How can RealPlaces help me?
Individual photos are fine for portraits or a plate of food, but when you want to show a real-world place, that's not enough. Intelligently-linked sets of photos allow your visitors to explore a place in their own way, with their own priorities and objectives. It's far more effective!

You can use RealPlaces to show off:

  • your business
  • your campus
  • your neighborhood
  • properties for sale
  • favorite hangouts
  • places you like to shop
  • a fantastic vacation spot
  • or something as "boring" as your dorm room.

You can bring your Places to life with zoomed views, descriptions, comments or questions - which can be general or about specific views or objects of interest.

Think about it like this: "RealPlaces begins where Google's StreetView ends!"

Believe it or not, RealPlaces is based on a project that was developed waaaay back in 1999, which in Internet Years is a lifetime ago. This was years before Google Maps, let alone any of the copycats. If there's interest (and time) maybe we'll write up a little history of RealPlaces at some point...

Our goal is to allow anyone to walk around any place in the real world with a first-person perspective -- at least all visitable areas. This is an admittedly ambitious goal, but we believe in the power of the masses.

A couple large companies have specially-equipped vehicles driving around gathering ground-level pictures, which gets them lots of from-the-street pictures in selected cities. It's a neat accomplishment. Really. But... it's limited to where the vehicles can travel, (so much of the imagery is pretty boring); there's no way to peer around objects, or zoom in to see very fine details of particular objects of interest; and most importantly, there's no way for you to create your own places with your own descriptions and information!

RealPlaces, on the other hand, is built by you: Real People. Since we are not restricted to on-street imagery, and we allow for human creativity, our users can create more interesting places and photos. And as we grow, we can naturally and organically assemble the kind of fine details about the world than can only be produced by many individual people.

Why Still Images?
QuickTime VR and other 'stitching' technologies have been around for several years, so why do we use still images? There are a few reasons:

  1. Speed
    Traditional VR panoramas are large, and take time to download. And when they include fine detail they can get very large. Because we use independent still images, a user can walk down a path without being forced to download lots of data that they don't care about. It also allows us to optimize in ways that traditional VR doesn't.

  2. Creative Freedom
    By using still images, users can be more creative - especially with zoomed views. Zooms are not resolution-limited in any way, and don't need to be shot from the same angle or position as the main views. So RealPlaces zooms allow better and more detailed visual information than would be practical (or even possible) with traditional VR data.

  3. Slop Factor and "Fixability"
    With still images you don't have to be perfect. If an image is tilted or has bad lighting, it's okay! Try again later - or not! Images can overlap by a little, a lot, or not at all.

    If someone has a better photo of a view or zoom in one of your Places, they can send it to you to as a replacement. Or they can send an interesting zoomed view from another angle, or time of day, or season. You can even use other people's existing photos to make awesome zooms (be careful about usage rights and/or attribution). Go wild.

  4. No Plug-ins!
    Because we use still images and javascript/ajax, we do not require any plug-ins. No Flash, no Java, no downloads, no nothin'! This means better compatibility, and in fact, even though we haven't (yet) optimized for it whatsoever, it is possible to find and walk around Places on an iPhone/iPad.

  5. Combined Technologies
    Using still images for basic navigation does not preclude the use of other data types, such as QTVR, video clips, etc. together with the still images to enhance the experience. We just don't require it.

And we have many more tricks up our sleeves to make the existing system more immersive, easier to use, etc. But you'll just have to wait and see....

Follow us on Twitter
Our Twitter feed lists new places as they are created, and an occasional post about news, contests and activities here at RealPlaces. This is a low-volume feed, so go ahead and follow! And retweet when you like what you see. :-)
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RealPlaces -- By Real People, For Real People