They’re cool, but unless you want to torture yourself, you’ll probably want to use a 3D Virtual Cityscape for less than 15 percent of your local lookups. Watching the innovation in the space, however, is thrilling. The applications are already fun, and getting more useful all the time.
A new beta that I especially like is UpNext, a Java-enabled start-up that is integrating business listings (from Localeze), event listings, user reviews, transportation info and other features. The site was cofounded by a Columbia Business School student, Danny Moon, as a project in his Entrepreneurs class (which is being taught by Adjunct Prof. Brendan Burns, who used to run PowerOne Media). Moon’s partners on the site are engineer and programmer friends from his hometown of Irvine, CA.
Moon asserts that the site is “faster and smoother than any other 3D applications.” He also notes that “every building is clickable and brings the user more information.”
NYC is the first city it covers. As the song goes … “if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.” Using the site, you can search for “Indian Restaurants” and see the swarm of restaurants on E. 6th Street. Or you can place the cursor on the Empire State Building and find an Indian restaurant that is nearby. Or you can search for “Happy Hour” promotions at Indian restaurants – although there probably aren’t many of those, since they’re usually BYOB.
In a couple of weeks, you’ll also be able to use UpNext’s “transportation” feature to see where the nearest subway is if, say, you are visiting Washington Heights. I am a big user of public transport and would really welcome this feature.
The site also integrates reviews and event listings, so you can get info on the San Gennaro festival while placing Mulberry Street downtown, or see how you can avoid getting stuck in the traffic for the New York City Marathon. Another neat thing about UpNext is it uses time-of-day lighting, so you can visualize the cityscape at night – or during the day.
During my limited testing, the site crashed a few times on my PC – something Moon says has now been fixed. But when it is up, I especially admire the site’s handsome look and lack-of-clutter. It is pretty easy to fly across town and find items, which are spotlighted in blue, rather than floating atop rooftops – an important thing when there are several listings in a single skyscraper.
In the long term, I would imagine these kinds of things will prove to be more than handy, especially for travelers. I recently was on a plane with a woman flying to NYC for the first time. Like legions of other “Oprah” watchers around the U.S., she had been induced to make the pilgrimage to Broadway to see “The Color Purple” (which Oprah produced). I spent a lot of time telling this woman where everything was – the theater, the hotel, nearby restaurants, the nearest subway. But I was not sure she really “got it” from my inadequate descriptions. I bet she would have found the site enormously helpful.
The site’s in beta, but Moon invites readers to e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org for an invite to review it.