FARGO—A new business started with the owners' hunt for a home, but the implications of what they do go far beyond real estate.
While Katie Chaussee was recovering from a back surgery last summer, she was looking to make a career change, and she found inspiration while looking for a new home.
She and her husband realized traditional photography wasn't always giving a good view of the real-world presence of houses. With a background in art and digital media, she figured she could help.
"As we got looking at it more and more, we realized that real estate is just skimming the surface of what's possible," Matt Chaussee said.
They've since worked to build up buzz about their new business, Be More Colorful, which operates out of The Prairie Den, 122½ Broadway N. They're now spreading the word about the possibilities of 360-degree photos and virtual reality, or VR, tours for immersive glimpses of museums, businesses and buildings.
With Katie Chaussee's artistic experience and her husband's background in e-commerce and marketing analysis, the couple's individual strengths are being combined to offer cutting-edge VR content.
They got started with Google Street View, which shows the external view of streets and buildings.
Katie Chaussee uses a digital camera and tripod to capture a series that are digitally spliced together, showing spherical and interactive views that can be added to a Google business listing.
These 360-degree images allow users to look up, down and around, getting a sense of what a place looks like. When combined with multiple images, she can make virtual tours that take the technology even further.
Katie Chaussee has posted about 240 photos on Google Street View so far that have amassed more than 800,000 views.
There are several online platforms for these photos, including Facebook, Matt Chaussee said. But some only work with certain smartphones, while others just reach people who already use that service.
That's where Be More Colorful comes in, creating content that can be uploaded to multiple platforms while also being available for business websites and marketing campaigns.
It's meant to give viewers a "taste," Matt Chaussee said, but not serve as a "digital surrogate" that keeps people from really going there.
The technology has other benefits, too. They made a virtual tour of the inside of the ship at the Hjemkomst Center, for example, allowing anyone to look around the interior, even if they're not able to physically walk around the space.
Clients can also add virtual buttons or links to the images so viewers can click on a phone they see to call the business, for example, or tap on a prominent product to buy it online.
It doesn't replace the need for traditional photography, but it can complement other marketing strategies, Matt Chaussee said.
"The whole focus of what we're trying to do is encourage a culture of increased curiosity and appreciation for all of the things that we have here and we may have forgotten about," he said.
For Katie Chaussee, the job lets her be creative every day, and the potential applications will only increase as the technology becomes more recognized.
"That's why we want to be an agency and stick around rather than just take the photos and leave," she said.
What: Be More Colorful
Where: Prairie Den, 122 ½ Broadway N., Fargo
Hours: By appointment
Phone: (701) 353-2000