Touring campuses in three dimensions … from your living room

Prospective students can tour Northeastern's 160 campus buildings in three dimensions from their computer.

It doesn’t require airfare or gas money, and students think it’s cool: Three-dimensional virtual campus tours have launched at seven colleges and universities, providing a welcomed alternative to the often-pricey college visit. provides Google Map-based layouts of about 4,800 U.S. college campuses, and the Boulder, Colo., company has created a virtual 3D tour for seven higher-ed institutions, allowing prospective students to scroll through any structure on campus and view it almost as they would in a traditional fact-packed tour led by a student guide.

Northeastern University, a 20,000-student campus in Boston, added CampusBird’s 3D tour model to its web site in November, and Northeastern officials said the mere presence of a 3D tour could be a valuable recruitment tool.

Avoiding the costs of campus visits, officials said, also could be appealing for families during tough economic times.

“We know students and their parents are very web savvy,” said Ronne Turner, associate vice president of enrollment and dean of admissions and marketing at Northeastern. “I think it is helpful in a bad economy to have ways to help students get to know the campus. … It’s not as easy for people to make the trip, and students and families want a lot of information before they decide to make a campus visit if money is an issue.”

Oliver Davis, CEO of CampusBird, said the company consisting of former Google employees takes thousands of pictures of campus buildings—there are 160 structures on the Northeastern campus—and “stitches” the photos to a 3D platform based on the popular Google Maps layout.

“Schools really want to present the campus as it would be live,” Davis said, adding that pictures and text describing dorms and lecture halls don’t provide an immersive touring experience for prospective students.