Google's photographic tour of everywhere on always seemed a little bit limited by the term "Street View," but with photos of business interiors now appearing on Google Maps, it's breaking free of that constraint. As part of its new local efforts, Google Places reps are running around 37 global cities--in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Japan, France and the U.K., to be specific--to photograph the interiors of a few lucky local businesses. The project has been underway for six months now, and business owners have to apply for the privilege of being photographed. But the latest effort from the company that once set out to organize all of the world's information is even more impressive that the recent press stunts that took Google Maps users on a trip up the Amazon River and a journey through the Alps. Now, they're taking you inside your local comic book store.
As you'll learn if you tap the arrows on the ground, the new feature is not limited to a peek in the front door. The new feature aims to offer users the ability to walk through the entire store--or coffee shop or restaurant--to get a feel for what it's like inside. The new interactive tour comes in addition to the option of including featured photos that can be closeups of plates of food or specific products. Both are accessible from the business local listings page and Google Maps. From the old street view, you just have to click on the pin to zoom in for the interior view. For privacy's sake, Google blurs the faces of any people that are inside.
Hacker News readers were the first to notice the roll out the Street View interior views on Wednesday, and they're going crazy talking about the possibilities. The comments on the post are worth a read but at a quick glance, we're intrigued by the idea of using these interior views as a first step towards indexing stores' inventories. "Then you can answer the question 'Where's the closest store with jumper cables?'" one commenter suggested. However, the business owners that are already featured have more pressing concerns. Nathan Kurz, chief executive of Scream Sorbet in Oakland, California, told VentureBeat about his experience joining the program.
"They came to shoot the interior as a perk for participating in a 'Google Offer,'" said Kurz. "I think this is how they are rolling it out, at least in the Bay Area. To me, the results came out fine, although I worry that it now makes 'casing the joint' a little easier."