MSN Pulls A Street-Side Drive-By

    February 28, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

The Virtual Earth team at MSN has managed to go from concept to launch in a matter of weeks with their on-the-street perspective of Seattle and San Francisco.

Upon hearing the news that a Microsoft team had pulled a drive-by, one could imagine the scene:

A rival search engine CEO, looking over fruit at an open market, hears the squeal of tires.

He turns to see the MSN Butterfly leaning out of a speeding vehicle, pointing something at him.

The CEO screams for his colleague to come to his aid, but the fellow is too busy playing with transparent Lego bricks to help.

Somewhere, Queen's "Another One Bites The Dust" blares from the speakers of a black Mercedes with no license plates, driving slowly by.

Three minutes later, the deed is done; the Butterfly has destroyed the barrel and hammer from his weapon. Soon they will rest at the bottom of the Bay.

Alas, the reality does not match the potential of what would have been the search story of the year. But that’s ok. The Street-side Drive-by preview arranged by MSN and the Virtual Earth team is pretty cool in its own right.

Sean Rowe, Program Manager, Virtual Earth, described the technology preview that his team made available today:

Street-side imagery allows you to drive around a city looking at the world around you as if you were in a car. But unlike the real world, you can stop your car anywhere you like and rotate your view around 360 degrees.

One of the most interesting features is to put you in Street’ view map style. In this mode, all of the street-side images are pasted flat on the map to give you a very unique overview of an area. It takes some getting used to, but once you adjust to it you’ll find it provides a very compelling companion view for our Hybrid maps. Street view helps you orient yourself quickly in an area, while the street side views then show more detail presented as you would see it in the real-world.

The team plans to add more cities before formally launching Street-side Drive-by this summer, when it will be integrated into Windows Live Local.

Inspiration for this came from A9’s street photography project, according to Robert Scoble; Microsoft wanted to take this idea “to the next level.” He commented on his blog that photography for each city took about a month to complete for the project.

Street-side is very much a prototype (as in “it doesn’t work perfectly right now and we know this”) at this point, and the Virtual Earth folks are soliciting feedback from those who test it. As for future cities, WebProNews would like to nominate its home of Lexington, Kentucky. After all, we were part of the Birds’ Eye debut in Local Live, so why not Street-side too?

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.