Google is allowing Street View map users to 'walk' inside stores and restaurants

360 degree virtual Tours of businesses now online

TAMPA - The magic of Google Street View mapping allows anyone to stroll down the Champs Elysees in Paris or downtown Tampa.  But until recently, you were stuck on the curb.

That's why David Stead, General Manager of Acropolis in St. Petersburg is paying to have a virtual tour of his restaurant included on Google Maps.

"It's a really beautiful restaurant.  It's two stories with a balcony, and a lot of stuff you don't see from the street view," said Stead.

The 360-degree photo shoot is done with the restaurant empty, because people's faces have to be blurred out.  In a few weeks, Acropolis will be open for inspection by the entire world.

"Let's say you have someone from out of town who's in St. Petersburg looking for a restaurant.  Now they can see the inside of your restaurant before they even get here," explained Josh Matzkin.

Matzkin working with 360 Photo Inc, one of only four US agencies authorized by Google to sell businesses on the idea, schedule the photographers and send the edited virtual tour to Google to be uploaded on Google Maps.  He says it's an easy sell.
 
"Once we get in front of the business owner, a lot of them love their business, so they want to show off their business. So the hardest challenge is just getting in contact with the business owner," said Matzkin.

Restaurants and bars are the most natural prospects, but  jewelry stores, banks, and even offices are paying for the photo shoots that start at about $400.  Clients also get help using the features of their Google Plus pages to promote their business.

With a nearly unlimited number of storefronts, the project will provide work for sales people and photographers like Samantha Stebbins for years to come.

"It gives me benefits and steady hours.  I always know I'll have something to do while freelance photographers are always wondering what's going to be next."

Those interested in commissioned sales opportunities can email 360photoTampa@gmail.com.

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