360 Photos Gives Companies Edge With Panoramic Tours

By Aisling Maki

When people think of virtual tours, residential real estate typically comes to mind. Panoramic tours use a sequence of carefully assembled high-quality images stitched together, offering larger, clearer views, which makes the technology a valuable tool for real estate agents, who can offer potential buyers an in-depth look at property, regardless of their geographic location.

Andy Wick, vice president of 360 Photos, has a business that offers high-end 360-degree photos. The company allows users to take virtual tours of large investments.

(Photo: Lance Murphey)

The tool enables potential buyers to virtually move from room to room, up flights of stairs and through corridors.

Andy Wick, vice president of 360 Photos, a small company at 3023 Centre Oak Way in Germantown, said the tours are “a way you can take somebody through a large investment without them going anywhere. They really get a feel for the headroom, the space and the volume, and it saves the end user valuable time and money by making sure it’s the right investment … that’s something you don’t get from flat, one-dimensional pictures.”

But 360 Photos (www.threesixtyphotos.com) is expanding that concept beyond real estate to showcase a wide range of facilities, including office and retail layouts, health care facilities, corporate headquarters, sports arenas, colleges and universities.

The technology is also being used to showcase cultural exhibits and events such as museums, civic gardens and automotive expos.

360 Photos' clients include Lansky Bros., FedExFamilyHouse, Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, Magnolia Homes, Spring Creek Ranch, Rhodes College and Methodist Hospital.

Wick saw potential to expand on this type of technology after talking to clients of his other company, visual thunder (surge), an advertising and marketing firm.

“It was those clients who said, ‘We’ve got to find something new; we just can’t do a new version of what’s being done a hundred times,’” said Wick, who runs the company alongside his wife, Peggy, who serves as president.

He was seeking a unique, sustainable, high-quality, high-tech products line that could be customized but remain affordable for a wide range of clients.

Wick said he was drawn to panoramic photography because “it’s never cookie-cutter.”

Wick’s firm works with a small team of global partners involved in a company called Spherovision, based in Stuttgart, Germany.

The company offers extremely high-resolution digital photography, shot with the very best technology available, and paired with custom German processing technology that stitches together and blends the images to create full-circle panoramas.

“The most remarkable thing about the product is that it absolutely delivers every time.”

–Andy Wick
Vice president, 360 Photos

The near 3-D experience is a prime way to showcase volume and space, and features such as hyperlinks, pop-ups and interactive hotspots – where visitors can find additional details or product information – can be incorporated into the tour.

The final product can be customized to include multimedia features such as voice-overs, music and video.

All files are created in Flash and HTML5, so they can be viewed on desktops, smartphones and tablets.

“Both of those work in every format that’s out there,” Wick said.

Total production time is typically less than two weeks after the photo shoot is completed, and the product comes with a price tag in the hundreds – not in the thousands – that makes it accessible even to many smaller businesses.

“They’re within reach for just about every type of business out there,” Wick said.

“The most remarkable thing about the product is that it absolutely delivers every time, either meeting your expectations or greater than.”

Wick said his clients were also seeking a different kind of search engine optimization that would not only get traffic to their websites but engage visitors to spend time on their websites.

“Our analytics show that panoramic photography increases the time people spend on sites as much as 800 percent,” Wick said. “So people who were spending a minute on your site before are now spending 10 minutes on your site. The panoramas are so involved and so engaging.”