This is a personal blog, please observe Think Hour for ad hoc quasi-diary writings and Big Ideas for my ratified longform items. I will see you there.


Panoramic Interior Voyeurism // Redfin Real Estate


I caught a fascinating link not too long ago. The website for United States real estate brokerage “redfin”, and I assume many others worldwide, offer, where available, the ability to tour houses online via street-view esque 3D imagery. Now this alone is very exciting to anyone who has enjoyed virtual museum tours or likes to peek beyond any and every web-veil in pursuit of discovering something real-world-interesting, but the specific property making the rounds was especially exciting. It was some sort of Amazon or Ebay operation’s headquarters, what appeared to be a large nondescript suburban structure on the outside was retrofitted inside, in a chaotic and messy way, to be able to store racks of bargain bin books, obscure and undesirable CD albums and many other trinkets and pornographic tapes.

Googling the first line of the address reveals I am very late to typing about this. That’s good though, it’s interesting in and of itself that this is popular, and I would love to get to the bottom of how/by who this was discovered before it proliferated across the web, but it’s mostly good because it means the question I wanted to investigate has likely been posed and discussed by minds more keyed in than my own. A question I would no longer be able to struggle with anyway, since I left the bookmark sitting for enough months that you can no longer tour the property on redfin. That question is: how might one go about archiving a virtual tour like this? Without brute manual effort, that is - is it as simple and boring as collecting big fat image files? Is there some kind of nice standard, maybe even open source, app that would allow you to view as you can on the fancy implementations big sites have?

Unsolicited Ideas

Before I verify with others I’m going to do my own research. I have located a tour that is currently available, much less interesting however. I’m tapped into the mainframe now. I see references to react and I see references to “matterport”, but no immediately available image files - understandable. I assume the react is just the website/interface. I think matterport is the key here and, since this is a very commercial enterprise, coupled with the fact these tours have some kind of subtle actual-3D going on to enhance the images, that they are serving this stuff up themselves as a packaged service. This is bothersome now, the way the movement looks, similar to Google maps, makes you think there must be some kind of z-depth distance being recorded as the images are taken so that they can be projected and interpolated all nice like - this is very sad, I should not have been optimistic to start with - where images might still be easy to leech, I doubt grabbing point cloud data and reconstructing this is going to be very simple or legal.


The code I am reading now is completely illegible to me, and I think to most humans. This is compiled probably. This is above my pay grades. He wants it on a CD, what a fool. In fact, I should have clicked around in the webapp, because there are useful things like terms and a big (small) MATTERPORT imprint that clearly indicate this is a matterport affair. Wow, there is even a sickeningly cool “dollhouse” mode that gives you a San Andreas void style overview of the photogrammetry, looking like a typical 3d model viewer - we have to give them credit for offering this interesting but unflattering feature.

Matterport Camera

I found a very interesting link to the matterport’s service, with a directory “models” - this is promising. The link appears to direct to a thumbnail for the model, being appended with “thumbnail” - it’s packed with u002F. Engaging the URL now. It automatically changed to target a CDN and I have an image there, the thumbnail - bingo. The former link is more fortuitous, offering a variety of images in its long length. Unfortunately these appear split - there is no big time HDRi style panorama to be had, and references to quaternions imply that these are projected appropriately at run time. These images must have been captured with their £2,000+ camera - the lack of quality is highly disappointing for such a pricetag, who would buy this - the digitalrev team is upset.

Well, I am spent. Nice that we got to some images that were kindly left accessible rawly. What do the pros say? Not much… there aren’t even any mysterious tight-lipped pro-rippers. It seems people have at least salvaged the original house from other sources. Here we go, the developer of pretty-looking Manifold Garden seems to have taken the leap on similarly scraped assets and reconstructed the house tour with brute force - very impressive. There is also more information here. I’m done with this excursion now, a little reassured that preservation is possible.