Dealership Communication Tools

Could Microsoft’s Photosynth be the future of online walkarounds?

Props to David at autolahome.com for bringing this to our attention in the “Car Dealers Embrace Video” Article!

On August 20th of 2008 Microsoft Labs launched Photosynth to the world.  It is an online image-stitching tool that renders a series of images into an interactive “panoramic” walk-around.

Imagine taking 20 photos of the interior of a car:  the steering wheel, the shifter, the radio, the driver’s door armrest, the gauges, the sunroof, etc and having them all linked together by technology.  No, not like a 2 dimensional slideshow as we have today.  A virtual 3D rendering that someone can click through to view various areas of the interior that interest them.  Think of something like the eVox interior displays most of us already have, but a little more crude, and not done in a studio with special camera gear.  This would be something anyone could do.  Maybe some images will help…

Example of a series of photos of the same subject
Example of a series of photos of the same subject
How 232 images of the Sphinx can be walked-through.
How 232 images of the Sphinx can be walked-through.

Visit http://photosynth.net to see it in action.  You will have to install some software and it currently works best in Internet Explorer (of course).

Then think about how you could use a technology like this to do full product displays without having to get fancy with the equipment.

Could this be a future tool for retailers?

M
I just took a good look at Photosynth and was a little disapointed. I'm always looking for the next thing to make my boss say good job Mitch and I'm not sure Photosynth would. It's a little awkward and the sharp lines/transparancy of the photos not in perspective had my eyes wandering around. I guess you have to take 100+ photos to get solid results.

The technology is really cool and I can see how somthing like this would find it's way into a dealership in a few years once it's refined. For now I'll keep on keepin on without. In my opinion a cheap flip camcorder and a youtube video would have way more impact... just my thoughts.
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    Stew Pedasso
  • November 19, 2008
I'm with Mitch on this one, and already checked it out awhile back. Super cool for vacation stuff, and travel photos, but way too much for car shoppers.

100 photos? LOL, just grab a video camera and have at it.
C
  • C
  • November 20, 2008
Agree x 2. There's just too many hurdles for this to be viable solution to dealers. From a custom activex control to having to take dozens of photos.

Mitch said it best, pull out the camcorder and start recording.

Chip-
It is in its infancy guys - this article is about what it could be in the future - not how to use it today.
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    Stew Pedasso
  • November 20, 2008
There isn't a future for it for dealerships I think was the point being made.

If you have to take 100+ pics then shoot a video of the car instead.

This is a very useful tool for photographers tho.
A
  • A
  • November 20, 2008
Check out:

http://www.bugeyedigital.com/product_main/036-0360d.html

I don't have one, but I've seen the results, and they look like the example on the webpage. It's a lens attachment for digital cameras that will shoot a 360 view shot in one picture, just like the eVox shots, and comes with a Java Player. While I'm not a fan of the player, a decent programmer should be able to create a new Flash based one in a relative short time period.

It would be better quality, and easier to do than snapping a ton of multiple images and stitching them together, so just the time saving would make up for cost.
Stew -

I think you’re being a little close-minded and not thinking about how the technology *could* change to be more retail-friendly.

Yes, in its current state, it is too crude for a simple application. It is definitely a WOW tool for photography right now.

Think a little more about future applications (as this article was originally intended) and try not to be so dismissive right off the bat. It is a Microsoft product, so you know they’re going to find a way to make a buck off of it.
M
I agree with you Alex, on the site they even refer to it as the "Beta" version or 1.0 leading you to beleive they have intentions to improve the software.

The interaction to "virtually" sit in a used car and joystick around to look around at all angles with high quality detail has to be an inovation of the future. We're not quite there yet thow. It has it

I think it would be so much better then even the eVox versions which always seem so sterile and cold. With this type of program you can have a banner (or something) in the background with a little more personality.
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    Stew Pedasso
  • November 20, 2008
The Bugeye is cool, used for panorama shots, great for real estate and vehicle interiors, but it can't do vehicle 360 exteriors with one shot.

Evox uses a rotating stage and HD digital video: http://www.precisionturntables.com/rotating-stage.html <--- we all need one of these, put this in your budgets @ $50k:)

Hey Alex, I guess I'm dismissive because shooting a video of the car would be much easier don't you agree?

And what is video?

It's a bunch of multiple photos put to motion, hence the motion picture reference or movies for short.
I think Photosynth is cool, but again how does it rival video for car dealers in function and time alotted?
Should we shoot a car video, then extract 100's of freeze frame photos from the video, then roll it back into Photosynth so we can look at the car??

If you want to talk FUTURE applications, let's crank this up a notch and start a post on holograms: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=thOxW19vsTg

You see, I've got an open mind Alex:)
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Stew -

You don't have to have 100's of photos - about 10 to 20 should do it. Yes, you would have to shoot a few more photos than the average. If you figure 10 photos of the exterior and 10 photos of the interior then it isn't that hard.

Video is much more difficult because of the editing process and planning. Taking 20 to 40 photographs is already being done.

You seriously jumped ahead with the holographic video on CNN - now that's cool! I can see a used car being reconstructed for product display like that in quite a few years. Combine Photosynth and Video holograms and you'll have a 3D rendering of a car that can be clicked on to explore various parts. You might even be able to see how the gas door opens before ever seeing the car in person!

I love technology!
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    Pete
  • November 20, 2008
Could this be a future tool for retailers?
Yes, in part, but it isn't a one stop solution. It better enhances the marketing capabilities but what I have argued many times with some that it is not a selling tool. You gain interest not sales, and I have been studying and preparing for what will be the next evolution of the selling model.
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    Jerome Jerenovich
  • November 21, 2008
This stuff has tremendous potential...... for vendors such as CDMData/DealerSpecialties/etc.... and take some of the power away from companies that exclusively sell a walk-around product such as UnityWorks or Sister Technologies....

If it were tweaked, packaged, and integrated properly into an existing online marketing tool.... it would rock.
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    Stew Pedasso
  • November 21, 2008
Granted, this is cool stuff, but...

I still don't see how Photosynth can be better than a video of the car for a shopper??
Maybe another way to view a car perhaps, but would the extra cost to have Photosynth on our websites be worth it?

Video is a bunch of pictures shot frame after frame. If that luxury isn't available to some dealers, then it might be an alternative, but good video cameras are $300 and some time!? And the automated vehicle videos are a couple hundred bucks a month.

Pete you're right on, this like video gains interest only, now we need to get the sale!

Jerome I gotta disagree here sorry.

"If it were tweaked, packaged, and integrated properly into an existing online marketing tool…."
Now that's the problem. How much time and money will this take for any company accomplish? How would you marry a vehicle audio description to Photosynth? How could PS link to viewing/reporting? How could you bind PS into a format that would allow viewing portability, or searchable (iphone, youtube/google)?

Why would CDM or DSpec want to invest into this tech, versus vehicle videos?

BTW, CDM uses Sister Tech video, and DSpec has their Vevo videos.
Both are automated vehicle video systems that use multiple photos and text to speech software(TTS) and can crank out 1000's of vehicle videos a day.

There's also Ebiz autos, Dealer Impact, and Liquid Motors all the basic same video thing.
UnityWorks isn't quite fully automated because they use real human voice, but similar.

I just don't see how photosynth could rival ANY of these companies that can create vehicle videos in bulk at anytime now or in the future.

Now vehicle holograms could rival all, and I get giddy over it, read one of my posts above.
Problem is tho, we're way too far away from getting there for dealers.
Maybe when we're all retired:)
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    Pete
  • November 23, 2008
Thanks Stew you see what I see.

It's funny to me and still crack up when slide shows are called video. Even better when I hear audio descriptions. I have my speakers off 99% of the time unless I am listening to a live sportscast or radio station.

Hologram, you bet that's cool and did you catch CNN's on election night? It was still about human interaction and selling vehicles will always be that way unless they are under say 20K, only primary colors, no additional options, 5 star safety rating, seats up to 7 and get's 100MPG. I don't even need to see or talk to anybody. Here is my credit card # and ship it to me and keep the key chains.
@Pete, you said "It’s funny to me and still crack up when slide shows are called video".

I totally agree BUT place your mom, dad or even a friend that is not totally tech savvy and see if they know the difference? I think you might be surprised. I know I was :)

However, as web surfers mature, the slide show will slide their way out. If you're a Video vendor, I wouldn't be sitting back thinking the slide show "video" is going to last forever.
I'm confused....when did anyone say Photosynth was better than video and when did anyone say a slideshow was a video?
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    Tony Weaver
  • November 24, 2008
Jeff, You are absolutely right regarding slide show videos. I think the videos we currently use on our site (slide show) are great for the first time visitor, but not for our return visitors...
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    Tony Weaver
  • November 24, 2008
Oh yeah, I mean slide show, not slide show videos...:)
S
Pete, yeah I saw the CNN election broadcast. I stood up in the living room and said OMG? The video production cost on that has to be $500k easy! My wife and kids started laughing at me.Then my kids asked me for a Batman hologram for Xmas for their rooms.

I had to explain to them in this economy they'll be lucky to get a color 8x10 printout of a Batman Hologram.

Then I showed the kids MS Photosynth, told them to upload all their Batman pics there, and call Alex for a demo:) Merry Xmas kids!

Seriously tho, we should look at it from the shoppers perspective.

Slideshows aren't real videos, but what Jeff mentioned might be true. The average shopper probably doesn't know or care about the difference between a slideshow, or a real video of the vehicle.
They want to know if it's a vehicle THEY want to buy.

Which confirms Pete's point about gaining the shoppers interest about the vehicle, that's really what it's all about.

Pete I like your thinking on the "here's my credit card" thing too. That could certainly apply to NEW vehicles since they're similar - just take your pick Mr/Mrs Shopper.
The vendors out there that provide the automatic bulk slideshow style video vehicle presentations should definetely look onward, of course this presentation style won't last forever.
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    Pete
  • November 25, 2008
Alex and Jeff,

"what Jeff mentioned might be true. The average shopper probably doesn’t know or care about the difference between a slideshow"

I stand corrected. I reply sometimes without explaining the angle of thought I have in mind.

Again, I like the slide shows and feel that they are great marketing but just do not believe that they truly qualify as the information that customers are seeking. What does it really tell me about the vehicle visually? That its silver and four doors?

Personally slide shows do not work for me. It's an upsell is all it is from the vendors. They keep pitching automation and ease, but for whom?

I'd rather see about 8-10 fast loading with ease of use, scrolling navigation or flip book style with high resolution photos at 800x600 or better of vehicle. Keep the sizzle and show me the steak.

I will even say that if a website is 2 years old or more, I would stop trying to improve it and build a new one. It shouldn't take more than 2-3 clicks to get the info sought and in less that 1 minute. I am probably the only person I know of that has created a focus group that has timed transitional inter-links after entering a site, to search for vehicle, find-view, contact and exit. Not just overall time spent at the site.

Improving human interaction albeit through virtual means is what I feel should be the highest focal point now.

Stew-"The vendors out there that provide the automatic bulk slideshow style video vehicle presentations should definitely look onward, of course this presentation style won’t last forever."

Amen! look onward. Mobile marketing(Check out 1-800-2ChaCha), voice to text im chat replies, business/social blogging with employees as members that can share articles, car vids with car care tips and post their customer testimonials or even CSI survey comments to their page walls.

Oh? sorry all, I get on a roll sometimes.

Have a great Thanksgiving-Pete
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    Joe
  • November 28, 2008
Slide Show videos are cool if you don't have that Cheeezy Computer Voice that cheapens it all.

A useless DR tidbit:
The slide show videos have an industry term, it's called the "Ken Burns Effect". Named after a producer that tried to give life to a Civil War documentary, using pan, zoom to give life to the still pics. He won a ton of awards for his innovation.
J