Google expands with new technology at Valley Businesses

FRESNO, Calif.

The technology works just like Google Streetview, only it's inside. With the click of a mouse, customers can move around the interior of a business, explore it's products and decide whether it's worth the trip without having to leave the home or office.

So far, about 100,000 businesses have it and word is now travelling fast to the Central Valley.

"It's more like photosphere of a place," said independent photographer Christian Parley. "You can look up, down, all around, walk through, zoom in, zoom out and it's all available on Google search."

Google Streetview gives online users of Google Maps a virtual drive down streets of major cities including Fresno. The company uses special cameras with 15 lenses to simultaneously snap a 360 degree view from atop Google cars. Even a guide with a backpack hiked down the Grand Canyon and a crew visited Antarctica to collect the most accurate, high resolution imagery available for some of the continent's most noteworthy destinations.

Now, the search engine is stepping away from the sidewalk again to go beyond the walls of buildings with "Google Business Photos." The new feature provides potential customers with a virtual tour of the interior without having to step foot inside the store.

"I'm the Streetview car, but instead of tires, I use shoes," said Parley.

The new feature is also generating jobs for independent contractors known as "Google Trusted Photographers. Those hired to work with the internet giant are trained by Google to take a series of special photos of the inside of businesses for a small fee. The pictures are then posted online free of charge. It's all part of the company's latest effort to expand the service to the Central Valley.

"I go through a business, show all the wonderful things you can see if you were there and people can decide if they want to walk in the door," said Parley.

so far dozens of businesses from Visalia to Merced have signed on, including Hobbytown USA on Barstow and Blackstone in Fresno. Owner Kayanne Yung said she decided to give it a try as a way to advertise her products in a new, bigger location after moving across town more than a year ago.

"You can take a look at what we have in the store and say oh, trains, but what specific brands we're carrying so it's nice to be able to do that rather than calling on the phone, being put on hold and then asking what do you have?" she laughed.

The Phoenician Garden on Herndon and First has had the service since December. employee Tarek Hmaiden said customers can get a feel for the atmosphere before booking a reservation and the tool has provided the restaurant with a big boost in business.

"I saw it first at a different restaurant and I was amazed by it and I thought It was really cool so I called the guy right away and said I want to do it," he said. "A lot of them (customers) say it's really pretty. One woman even called to see where we got our curtains from because she really liked them."

Vino and Friends in Northeast Fresno was among the first to offer the service. Since then other businesses like Fahrney Automotive Group in Selma have signed up and Parley said he plans to take pictures at all six dealerships with Groppetti Automotive in Visalia.

Google reportedly wants every business to have the new feature. the fee for the service is negotiated with each photographer, but businesses said it's very affordable.

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