This is an exciting day for us at Zillow, as we announced this morning the addition of 3D-like, “birds-eye” aerial photos to our beta site. These remarkably clear and detailed images, shown alongside home details and Zestimates, come from Microsoft’s Virtual Earth platform.
Back in December, when we first saw bird’s eye imagery on Microsoft’s Live Local site, we knew it would be a great addition to what we were creating for Zillow.com. A few of us went to visit Microsoft’s partner, Pictometry, in Rochester, NY. It was fascinating to learn about the process Pictometry uses to collect and process all of these 45-degree photos, including seeing one of the fleet of modified Cessna aircraft which are flying all over the country right now, taking these pictures of homes and neighborhoods from all sides. Microsoft then takes this data (50+ terabytes’ worth!), does their magic, and delivers it to millions of people on the Web. When we integrate these images with the home data and Zestimates we have on Zillow.com, the resulting experience is jaw-dropping.
It’s easy to imagine the clarity these images add for a home buyer curious about a property’s architecture, yard or neighboring homes. Personally I like looking at my neighborhood the most. Not only is this a perspective I’ve never seen (even though I’ve lived in the same neighborhood my whole life), it allows me to do “Sunday afternoon strolls” looking at nearby houses whenever I want. In the side-by-side view, I get the Zestimate and home details on the traditional Zillow satellite map right next to the bird’s eye view.
We have a number of cities now, and Microsoft and Pictometry are busy continually adding more. If your city isn’t covered, you can still have fun looking at other areas. For example, I was snooping around Beverly Hills homes and discovered this street – Beverly Park Circle, 90210. Click on some of the houses, look at the resulting bird’s eye view, and imagine what it would be like to have an afternoon BBQ with some stars at one of these mansions.
A few tips — you may notice that you will run into the edge of a bird’s eye image. If this happens, use the street/satellite map on the left in the side-by-side view to move to the house you want. The bird’s eye view will then switch over to the next image. Also, you may notice that both maps aren’t perfectly synchronized. This usually has to do with hills, so you might have to find street corners or other landmarks to match the two maps visually. Over time, we will address both of these issues.
All in all, I find the experience using bird’s eye views and Zillow data quite engrossing. I hope you enjoy it as well.