Google on Tuesday announced a groundbreaking new feature for Google Maps: The ability for users to see, drag and drop into panoramic views of business interiors, that is, 360-degree rotatable, interactive views of the inside of local retail outlets, a new capability created using the company’s controversial Street View technology.
The feature is already active for thousands of participating businesses around the globe (a select few which are highlighted here), according to Google, which first announced in May it was expanding 360-degree views of business interiors outside of the U.S.
Now that Google’s successfully gathered 360-degree-views of the interiors of thousands of stores the world over, the company is promoting them more heavily to Web users.
Specifically, the new feature that Google unveiled Tuesday is an easier way to see and access the interior Street Views. Now, whenever a user clicks on the orange person icon found in Google Maps (located at the top of the zoom control bar to the left side of the map pane, see image below), which Google calls “Pegman,” they’ll see a series of orange circles representing all of the local businesses that offer the 360-degree Street Views of their interiors.
Google wants users to click this:
To see the 360-degree interior views represented on the Google Maps pane like so:
The Web user can then drop the “Pegman,” on any of the orange circles to be instantly transported into the interior of that shop, or at least, that’s the effect Google is going for, as advertised in the following video promotion Google posted on Tuesday on YouTube:
The move should help further distinguish the sheer breadth and interactivity of Google Maps over a growing pack of rivals in the digital mapping market, including Apple and Amazon, the latter of which recently partnered with Nokia to create its own mapping service for the Kindle Fire line of devices, despite the fact those devices run Google’s own mobile operating system, Android.
But when asked whether the 360-degree-view of Spice Market’s dining room had drawn in any customers or had any measurable impact on its business since the imagery was first posted online in March 2012, a manager told TPM that there was no way to tell.
“It’s kind of unmeasurable,” said a Spice Market manager named Jason in a phone interview with TPM, “We can’t detect whether people are coming or reserving more, and we didn’t notice a spike in web traffic. But we have gotten a lot of positive comments. Our feedback from guests is that they like looking around. I just can’t tell you whether it’s impacted our business positively or negatively.”
To be fair, that could be due to the fact that Google didn’t begin actively promoting how to access the Street View interiors of local businesses, or even show users how to do so, until now.
Google is also baiting businesses to sign-up to get their own interiors into its Street View system with a $100 coupon to Google’s AdWords online advertising platform.
Google’s been buffing up its map service in other ways too recently, providing new, more detailed aerial and 3D imagery (45-degree angled views), as well as releasing Street Views of esoteric places including The White House and Antarctica.