Aesthetically Pleasing Uses of Virtual Earth
The MSN Branded Entertainment and Experiences Team has created several unique mashups using Virtual Earth and I wanted to get them documented in a single blog post.
LeBron James Bike-A-Thon - The "King for Kids" Bike-a-thon is a fund-raising event hosted by NBA All-Star LeBron "King" James. The site integrates Virtual Earth to highlight (1) the path of the bike-a-thon using out drawing tools; and (2) a collection of places of interest along the path of the bike-a-thon. What's unique about this site is that in the popups contain data ranging from just text to photos to 360 degree photos to embedded video! It's an awesome example of the flexibility Virtual Earth provides for creating not just locator and mapping applications, but Mapvertisements (or map-based Marketing / Advertisement mashups), as well.
Ford Edge (Ideas from the Edge) - This Ford Focus sponsored site highlights about 25 cities in the US with an brief description of the why the city is a fun place to go. Once you select a specific city you can drill down and see places to "eat, see, trek, play and indulge." You can also search for places and things to do through their local search engine or user generated content. Or, if you want to sit back and see how the site works you can just watch the demo This demo is also a great way to illustrate to you end users how to operate your web site with Virtual Earth - I've heard many complaints that certain users get to a web site and "don't know what to do with the site." People are funny.
Westin Sights & Sounds of the City - This is one of the most beautiful web site I've ever seen. Virtual Earth is only a piece of it, but a critical piece. I chose to highlight Maui, because I actually stayed at the Westin Maui Resort and Spa in Ka'anapali last May and it was just a fantastic experience. I'm a Westin guy, so I actually stay at a lot of their hotels, but this one was for pleasure. I digress. The site highlights a few of Westin's premium hotels from around the world on the map. The map also contains places worthy of your time such as points of interest and restaurants, etc. What's unique about this site is that once you drill into a hotel, you get a 360 degree photo of the hotels amenities with music (some nice ukulele for Maui) and voice over testimonials about the hotels. Check out the unique "pushpins" too - pretty pushpins - who said you were limited to a crappy pushpin icon?
Nokia New Year's Eve - This past new year's Nokia launched a site that allowed users to be a party of a global party. This site is hip example of music and artistry. It took some effort for me to find Virtual Earth, but sure enough it's there and very cool! Once you land on the site, select a city (Rio, for example) then select the link to "Add a photo of video" - this launches Virtual Earth within the Flash frame. You'll see a world-wide map with icons representing locations of people who have uploaded videos and photos - there are some great ones in Rio. :) However, this is a great example of community mapping. Allowing users to add pushpins of interesting places, then add pictures and videos to really immerse themselves into your site is an effective way to maintain return visitors to your site. Can I go so far as to say, "Global Community?"
Kudos to the BEET team for building out some killer sites. I've recently been engaged with them to get even more creative and roll out more of these sites. Marketing Managers take note that Virtual Earth is a platform that can support your enterprise needs from the basic locator to business intelligence applications to brand awareness marketing efforts. Microsoft is your one stop shop for mapping!