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Web site gives tour of capital

A new Web site allows people to walk around downtown Springfield, roam the halls of the Old State Capitol and check out what's on a restaurant buffet, all with a few mouse clicks.

E-motion, a Springfield-based Web design company, recently launched www.springfield-vr.com, which features "virtual-reality" tours of the Lincoln sites and other local tourist hot spots.

Mark Edwards, co-owner of the company, also is selling space on the site to local businesses who want VR tours - which allow a Web surfer to rotate through a 360-degree photograph - of their dining rooms, sales floors or anything else worth looking at.

VR tours have been around on the Web for a while. But Edwards says the unique mix of technology and software he uses to shoot and sew the images together makes for a clear, crisp, lifelike view.

"If a picture is worth a thousand words, a VR is worth a million," he said.

The site has VR tours for nine tourist sites, including the two state capitol buildings; the Lincoln home, tomb, depot and law office; the Dana-Thomas House; Vachel Lindsay Home and New Salem.

Edwards said he shot and posted those historic site tours at no cost to the state. He does have an informal agreement with the historic site managers to trade Web site links between his and the state Web sites.

The Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau also expects to post a link on their site to Edwards' site.

"It really gives people a good look at what Springfield has to offer," said Tim Farley, executive director of the bureau. "We could never do that with a brochure, so it gives them a better look at what they could potentially see in Springfield."

In addition to the tourist spots, the Web site allows users to click on a map of downtown Springfield to view VRs that will "walk" a person up and down Fifth and Sixth streets between Jefferson and Monroe streets.

Edwards is hoping businesses will want to get in on the Web site.

For $300, Edwards' company will shoot and post a single 360-degree photograph. It'll cost another $300 for each additional VR of another room or area. It will cost an extra $300 a year to stay connected to the site, Edwards said.

As of Friday, one restaurant, Holy Land Diner, 518 E. Adams St., had a VR tour of its dining room on the site. Edwards said more businesses will be posted soon.


WANT MORE INFO?

  • What: Springfield virtual reality Web site

  • where: www.springfield-vr.com

  • Edwards said he started with VR last year when he created a site for a bed and breakfast he visited in Arizona. He then did a virtual walk-around of St. Charles, Mo.

    Springfield is his first try at a citywide VR site. He plans to create a Chicago site soon and add new cities from there.

    The Springfield site requires users to have QuickTime image-viewing software loaded on their computer. The program is available for free by clicking a link on the site.

    Jason Piscia can be reached at 788-1525 or jason.piscia@sj-r.com.

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