SCW: Could you describe the 360degress photographic technology sold by Metropole Worldwide?
To give you a little history, for over 35 years there has been a quest to develop immersive imaging. Companies have met this goal to some extent, but only by using a very complex process that is expensive and time-consuming and requires stitching together multiple photographs.
We believe we have discovered the Holy Grail of immersive imaging that will revolutionize the real-estate industry. Our patented technology allows you to capture a 360degrees image in one photograph with just one click of one camera. Our products produce 360degrees still images or real-time video with full navigation; as a result users are able to view and interact with the images from remote locations, as though they are standing in the place the image is taken. Our products enable people to effectively be in two places at once.
SCW: In simple terms, how can you take a 360degrees photo with just one click?
Metropole's lens system looks something like a wine glass. The exterior of the glass is a parabolic mirror which reflects 360 degrees of the surrounding area; the base of the glass is a relay lens which removes the curves reflected in the mirror, without any software. The camera takes a photograph of the reflection in the mirror through our lens.
SCW: What are some of the benefits over previous technologies?
All other products require stitching multiple photographs together and technologies that use a fisheye lens must use complex software to take out distortion. Metropole's products are so easy to use that they do not require a professional photographer or special skills, and the result is a single image that is undistorted to begin with and does not require any stitching. Using our system is easier than using a regular camera because you do not even have to concentrate on what perspective should be photographed; it doesn't matter where you point the camera because it will capture everything with just one click.
Because our hardware eliminates distortion prior to processing, we are able create live feed 360degrees video. This also makes the end result more accurate, as the image was not and does not feel as if it was manipulated by trick software. An example of how one of our images appears prior to processing is our photo of Times Square (p.63). Had this image been taken with a fisheye lens and displayed prior to processing, each building would appear to be significantly bent.
SCW: What kind of processing is involved with the Metropole technology?
Because the image created with our system does not contain distortion, after taking a still picture, simply download it to a computer like any other digital image. Then drag and drop the JPEG picture file into the proprietary software Metropole includes with each system, where it is automatically processed to enable immersive viewing, navigation and HTML publishing. After that you are ready to post the image to a website literally within 5 minutes of taking the picture.
SCW: What are some ways the shopping center industry could use the still photographic technology?
Metropole's products accelerate and improve all real estate transactions including site selection, leasing, property management or the sale of an entire portfolio of shopping centers.
Let's begin with site selection. Previously I would have to go to each potential site, or view multiple photos laid out next to each other which did not convey a location as though I was there. With our technology, you can send someone to take the photo, without concern for whether they have an understanding of the relevant field of view. Our lens captures the entire field of view. After taking one shot the JPEG file can be e-mailed to me enabling me to immerse myself in the image as though I was there.
There are many benefits to this. First, it eliminates travel expenses, saves time and avoids the distractions executives experience through travel. Having worked as a real estate consultant for the past 20 years, I know that the industry spends an inordinate amount of time and money on travel. With Metropole's products, decision-makers can instantly view infinite remote locations from behind their desks. Once a site is selected, the user can immediately e-mail the image to the head of real estate, potential lenders, appraisers, architects, and all the other parties needed to close the deal. One of the most significant advantages of Metropole's products is that all officers of a company can sit together in one room and review multiple locations for acquisition, lease or review construction in progress in real time, as though they are personally at each location. Our products accelerate the decision-making and development process because all the players can view the site simultaneously, as if they are there.
SCW: What kind of interest have companies shown prior to sale?
The interest has been tremendous. We were one of the busiest booths at the Spring 2000 ICSC convention. We had the live feed video set up so that people could watch themselves in the 360degrees immersive environment and navigate throughout the image. People were really surprised by how easy it was to use.
SCW: What is the price range for these technologies?
Metropole's basic lens system for still photographs and the accompanying software will cost under $2,000. The cost of the technology varies according to the number of users, the use and volume. We will also provide customized packages or tours (such as an on-line shopping tour of a store). We have not finalized pricing for the video products.