Google is taking its Street View mapping service indoors. No, it won't capture you vegging out on your couch, but the feature will be exploring the interiors of certain businesses.A pilot program started in April 2010 and back in May, Google announced plans for 360-degree Business Photos, a program that would send Google photographers to various businesses to snap professional photos for their Places Page. A spokeswoman said today that "we're seeing renewed interest in the past few days because as promised, as more of the imagery becomes available, we're getting more of it online."
"This experience, using Street View technology, includes 360-degree imagery of the business interior and storefront," Google said back in May. "With this immersive imagery, potential customers can easily imagine themselves at the business and decide if they want to visit in person."
Photographs are taken by "trusted" photographers, Google said, though businesses can also upload their own images via Google Places. The company is currently setting up shoots in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Japan, France, and the UK. In the U.S., that includes Los Angeles, Miami, Houston, Austin, D.C., Boston, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York. Google said it is starting with businesses "that we know are searched for most regularly," like restaurants, hotels, retail shops, gyms, salons, and repair shops.
If you want your business photographed, you can apply online. Google will own the photos it takes, but businesses can request to have shots they don't like removed.Naturally, taking internal photos and posting them online brings up some security questions. But Google said its photographs will "capture nothing different to what a customer would see by visiting the business in real life." The search giant asked that stores notify customers about the photo shoot by putting up signs so they don't inadvertently end up in the background of a shot.
If someone does end up in the photograph, "we'll either run the 360-degree imagery through our state-of-the-art blurring technology to blur out faces of any employees and customers who appear in the imagery, or we won't publish the still photos if people are in view," Google said. "Remember, only people with the authority to make agreements on behalf of the business can submit an application for photography, and by submitting the application you're confirming that you have that authority and that you will follow the steps set out here."
The main Street View feature, meanwhile, has made headlines recently for privacy concerns abroad. In May, Google voluntarily opted out of enlarging its Street View program within Germany. Last year, Italian officials required Google to provide adequate warnings about when its Street View vehicles would be passing through. A month before, Google was banned from expanding Street View in the Czech Republic due to security concerns. Not everyone is hesitant, though. In August, Google said Street View will expand to Israel.
Heres an example.