Google has launched a new program that takes the company's often controversial Street View project one step further. The latest offering is going indoors, taking high-resolution photos of business storefronts in an effort to help them build their online presence.
Google announced the free Business Photos program back in May as a pilot program but the service is just now expanding its offering to more locations. The program works on a volunteer basis and is rolling out in select locations in Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the United States. Cities in the US include Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Miami, Los Angeles, Houston, Philadelphia and New York.
Google will be sending out invites to businesses that receive a lot of queries for their type of service, including gyms, hotels, shops and vehicle repair garages. Business owners can also submit a request to be photographed by visiting their Business Photos website.
Big-brand chains, hospitals and lawyers' offices have initially been excluded from the program, putting more of a focus on smaller mom-and-pop outlets. Owners must warn customers and employees about pending photo shoots and Google promises to either blur out bystanders or not use those photos at all. Of course, all photos will become the property of Google and can be used for other applications.
"Many retailers are increasing their online presence and use of technological innovations, so this is a development some businesses will no doubt consider with interest," said Sarah Cordey, spokesperson for the British Retail Consortium.