Google keeps moving forward with their secret mission to make it possible for people to never leave their houses. If you haven’t seen it yet, those buildings that just got a 3D upgrade in Google Maps now have an open front door. For a growing number of businesses you can step inside the establishment and take a look around. Participating businesses hope you like what you see enough to show up in person.
Once inside you can look up, down, and all around with the seamless visuals we’re used to with Google Maps and Google Earth. There’s room to wander inside too. Clicking on arrows will move you around the room or down the hall so you can see into or enter even more rooms.
Using it as its intended, you can gauge the ambiance of a restaurant before taking your first date there. But as someone who loves exploring the world through Maps and Earth, I want to enter places in far off lands that I’ll probably never get a chance to visit for real. In the business highlights of their Maps gallery you can see some places Google has already created interiors for. Take a look around Kappo Nagi in Kyoto to see if the sushi restaurant in your neighborhood looks like the real thing. Or check out Chataigner Yves in Paris to see the unbelievably diverse selection of cheeses this corner store has to offer. Seeing the architecture from the sky and streets is one thing, but actually going into restaurants, fromageries, shopping malls, barber shops, museums and who knows what else will really enhance the travelings of the virtual tourist in all of us.
Interested businesses fill out an application. If they’re accepted, Google sends over a team to photograph the location’s interior. They hire local photographers in cities around the world and right now have photographers in the 11 US cities, as well as major cities in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, France, and the UK. But make sure the place is tidy. Google has the rights over all the photos taken and maintains the right to leave the photos online even if the business owner wants them removed.
The new interior views aren’t, by themselves, novel, as most restaurants and shops with web pages include pictures for potential customers to peruse, many even with a 360 degree Google Maps type view. Of course, there’s no way Google is going to be able to snap pictures of every shop on every street that their camera cars have been, but each location that’s integrated into Street View gives the Map experience that much more flavor.
I must say, however, there’s room for improvement. For one, finding the virtual front door is less intuitive than most features on Google Maps. You have to first go to the Google Places site for the business and scroll through the Street View box and click on the interior view. Getting out could be smoother too: you can’t just click your way out, you have to exit Street View then reenter Street View to continue your aimless meanderings.
But maybe I’ve just been spoiled. To sound more spoiled, I think it would be awesome to combine the interior views – and Street Views for that matter – with all those live webcams in bars and restaurants and city squares. Then, after your buddy finally decides to take his first date to that nice looking restaurant, you can watch him on his first date. Ah, the wonders of technology.