Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Vignettes from Vermont: Virtual Fiddlehead

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BENNINGTON -- Fiddlehead at Four Corners art gallery at 338 Main Street in downtown Bennington got Googled again, only from the inside out, and it's just a matter of time before other Bennington businesses get Googled, too. It's in their best interests to do so.

Eric Wood of Bennington ...

Check out Eric's website at ... he's good

... spent an hour inside the 83-year-old marble bank building yesterday shooting 218 photos with an ordinary Nikon D-90. He will use Google's super-secret Street View technology to stitch the photos into a Virtual Tour of the gallery from the inside.

What is Street View technology? Check out the map above. The white marble building you see with art in the windows is Fiddlehead at Four Corners. Now, play with the arrows to see how the screen moves in 360 degrees so that you see the four corners of downtown. 

Pretty sweet, huh?

"In a week," Wood told Art Gallery Dude, "you'll be able to take a left turn off Main Street and actually go inside and take a virtual tour of Fiddlehead."

The execution is simple. Wood used a camera that Nikon doesn't even make anymore -- "nothing different than you'd buy off the shelf" -- and fitted the body with a specialized lens that takes circular photos. A picture in the viewer looks like this ...

... Wood took 12 photos from each spot, or 3 photos based on 4 rotations (360 degrees) of the camera. The 3-photo sets were overexposed, underexposed and properly exposed.

"The idea," Wood said, "is to recreate what the human eye can see because a camera doesn't have the same dynamic range as the human eye."

Wood ran into a few logistical roadblocks ...

... in that picture is Fiddlehead owner Joel Lentzner (left) talking to Michael Harrington, the town's economic and community development director. In the background is Wood taking pictures in the Graffiti Vault. Behind Joel is the old Vermont National Bank centerpiece.

Wood said "logic" and "decision points" are the biggest components to giving viewers the total experience during a virtual tour. "You have to connect it in a way that allows people to navigate." That's why he took 3 photos in front, 3 photos from each side and 3 photos behind the centerpiece, and will use secret technology to stitch them in such a way to lead viewers into the vault.

Here are more of AGD's photos of Wood taking photos ...

Mike Harrington and Eric Wood in front of Fiddlehead's Brew Vault

John Shanahan, executive director of the Better Bennington Corporation, asked Fiddlehead at Four Corners and Evans Country Market to be examples for Google Business Virtual Tours. Shanahan wants to market the service to other Bennington businesses. And why not?

We're in a brave new tech world, a Star Trek world where "75 percent of the U.S. online population are online shoppers" -- and most of those online shoppers shop on their smartphones or tablets. More on that J.P. Morgan study HERE.

When tourists come through Bennington, there's a really good chance they're looking for restaurants and galleries and hotels and other attractions on sites such as Yelp and Foursquare and Google+ -- and Fiddlehead has a listing on all of them.

Now when someone Googles art galleries and Bennington and Fiddlehead at Four Corners comes up, they'll not only see Fiddlehead's website listed but a Virtual Tour of the inside of the store. What business owner wouldn't want to expose his or her business to inhabitants of the brave new Star Trek world in such a cool fashion?

Here's the sheet explaining why it's worth having a Google Business Tour ...

So yeah, you'll be able to take a Google Tour of Fiddlehead at Four Corners in a few days.

"This is one of the most amazing buildings on Main Street," Wood told AGD in the video below. "If you don't come in you're missing out on a piece of history."