Week of September 13, 1999
  Editor's Choice Web Pick
   of the Week

It's Alive: Office Buildings Magazine's
Smart Use of 360-Degree, Interactive Technologies

"It's aliiive!" -- Dr. Frankenstein

Yes, it certainly was, thanks to technology (which, alas, proved Dr. Frankenstein's undoing). Also alive, albeit in decidedly more healthy fashion, is the Office Buildings Magazine Online Web site (www.yrinc.com). Thanks to technology, this one moves in a way that would warm the cold cockles of Dr. Frank's heart.

Particularly alive are this site's "virtual tours," which feature 360-degree exterior and interior views of buildings. Granted, there are only a few buildings online for which you can take the 360-degree tour, and they're all in Manhattan's high-rent areas. That may be fine and good if you have an interest in locating in those buildings - and it may also be fine and good if you don't. Indeed, the site's 360-degree technology will likely be the most vivid memory that the average "simply-curious user" takes away from a visit.

You may need a technological upgrade to use this snazzy 360-degree gewgaw. Specifically, you need the plug-in for the 32-bit Netscape Browser. If you don't have it, you'll need to fill in your name and email to get it. This site, however, smoothes the technological upgrade process; it's already pre-selected the IPIX plug-in (from International Pictures Corp. at www.ipix.com) that it thinks you'll need. However, the online instructions add, "If you feel this is not the correct setup, a full list of alternative plug-ins and viewers is also available for you to choose from."

During our test drive, the IPX plug-in loaded successfully and quickly. Be forewarned, though, that loading the individual 360-degree images you select does take a little time. This corner, however, found those relatively brief image-decompression waits well worth it.

The site's 360-degree technology performs solidly. You can move left or right, or up and down. And you can zoom in or zoom out on selected portions of the images, providing a wide perceptual range. Or, if you want a few seconds of unalloyed silliness, simply spin the image until you're properly dizzy. On a more (ahem) realistic note, the online images here give you a real feel for the inside and outside of these buildings. The images are also blessedly realistic: The individual office pictured at 540 Madison Avenue has its share of stacked clutter, suggesting that an actual living being resides there; New York's ubiquitous sidewalk vendors stand intrepidly outside the exterior of the 140 East 45th Street property.

Technology Reflects Magazine's Online Migration

In many ways, the leading-edge technology is appropriate for this site from Office Buildings Magazine (OBM), which is published by New York City-based Yale Robbins (hence the "yr" in the Web address). OBM, long a player in traditional business and real estate print publications, has migrated to cyberspace with all of the content in its the entire product line - which also includes The Manhattan Condo Book, The Co-op/Condo ID Directory, and other publications and mailing lists.

That migration also tells you a lot about which way the advertising wind is blowing. After all, a one-year subscription to the print version of Office Buildings runs US$675. Online, though, it's free - providing a rather striking exclamation point to the increasingly powerful sway that cyberspace is wielding.

For Most Users, the On-Site Beef Is at 'Search Buildings'

This site's online offerings also include free, metro-area-specific statistics on rent, vacancy rates and total available inventory.

For users looking for new space, though, the "Search Buildings" click-off is where the beef is on this site. Granted, the reach of the site's search capability is largely limited to New York City and 10 U.S. Northeastern and Midwestern states. For many users, though, that will likely be more than enough options from which to choose.

And there are a hefty lot of on-site buildings here. For example, we found 1,229 New York City buildings on this site; for the Boston metro, we found 587. As you'd expect, the site gives users each property's name and address. But there's also a host of other information, including: the year in which the structure was built, building services, the managing agent and rental agent (with phone numbers), and other tenants in the building.

Many of the building descriptions are also accompanied by color photos, which are generally of high quality. Many of the properties also include a click-off that brings up a detailed street map of the site and its surrounding environs. Users can zoom in or out for more detail; or they can automatically click to national-, regional-, city- or street-level zooms.

The site's "Power Search" capability also enhances the value of its online property information. Users can search the database by combining a wide variety of variables, including region, city, state, county, ZIP code, owner, management agent, rental agent, total number of building floors, and floor size. By the way, our search for building type "castles" in region type "Transylvania" produced no hits.

To quote Marc Andreeson, "At the end of the day, the Net has everything to do with communications and nothing to do with computers."



©1999 Conway Data, Inc. All rights reserved. Data is from many sources and is not warranted to be accurate or current.