When you use Google Maps and Street View to locate a restaurant or bar wouldn't it be nice to be able to peek inside to check that it has the ambiance and atmosphere you want? Well to a certain extent you already can with Google Places where you can read and post reviews and see photos uploaded by business owners ....
What we see now isn't all that impressive (click to enlarge)
But within a few days a new feature will to be added providing an independent view.
Google is introducing Google Business Photos, a free service whereby owners can invite the official Google photographer to step through the doors and capture images of the interiors.
Photographers are already booking appointments in the U.S. (Orange County, CA; Pheonix, AZ; Bay Area, CA; San Antonio, TX and St. Petersburg, FL); Australia (Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney and Darwin); New Zealand (Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Invercargill, Blenheim and Nelson) and Japan (Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, Fukuoka, Hyogo and Okinawa) plus in London, UK, Paris, France and Seoul, South Korea.
However businesses in any city can request a photo shoot and Google will decide where to send the photographers next on the basis if demand. Meanwhile business owners around the world are being encouraged to upload their own photographs to their Place Pages.
The new service was announced by Marissa Meyer who took charge of Google's Location Division in October at the Social Loco conference in San Francisco. She also disclosed other facts about Google's location-based products:
Google Places has marked out more than 50 million Place pages, and now includes more than 5 million ratings and reviews. It's now growing at a rate of about one million ratings and reviews per month.
The growth of location services is being driven by mobile users. More than half of Google Maps users on weekends are accessing the product over their phones.
Microsoft's intention is presumably to try to compete with similar services such as Yelp - but from the consumer's point of view such competition is very healthy.
A new version of Google Earth that will be available on Android tablets was also announced at Social Loco. It features 3D models of everything from college basketball arenas to the Taj Mahal with many of the models having been created by users.