Wednesday, April 16, 2014
A York-based technology firm aims to help Portland-area bars, restaurants and retailers create virtual tours of their establishments that can be viewed through Google Maps.
The Roost Cafe & Bistro in Cape Neddick is located and viewed inside and out using a free Google Maps App that shows photos taken by Indoor Street View, a company based in York.
Images courtesy of Chris Rioux
The company, called Indoor Street View, is a Google Inc. contractor that can be hired by businesses in New England to extend Google's panoramic Street View service into their facilities, company owner Chris Rioux said.
The firm already has created virtual tours for a handful of Portland businesses including downtown retailer The Alpaca Shed and the Portland Regional Chamber.
Now, the company hopes to ramp up its business in Portland, starting with bar and restaurant Binga's Stadium at 77 Free St., which is scheduled to be photographed for a virtual tour on Monday.
Rioux said he plans to be in Portland from Aug. 5 to 9 to photograph a string of businesses and is accepting requests via the company's website, indoorstreetview.com.
The process of creating a virtual tour involves taking panoramic photographs from a variety of points inside the business, he said.
"I call them photo bubbles," Rioux said. "You're inside this virtual bubble."
The photo bubbles are then merged together seamlessly using software created by Google to construct an interactive "tour" that allows the viewer to pivot, zoom and move in any direction around a virtual representation of the business.
Virtual tours can be accessed through Google Maps by clicking on a participating establishment's Google Street View photo. Google first introduced the virtual-tour feature to Google Maps in March 2012, Rioux said.
The Alpaca Shed, at 23 Temple St., was the first Portland business to hire Indoor Street View, said Stacey Whitton, the shop's owner.
The company visited the store in February and spent about two hours taking photos, which she said cost about $450.
Two weeks later, The Alpaca Shed's virtual tour went live on Google Maps, Whitton said.
"That was kind of neat to be one of the first," she said. "We're happy we did it."
Binga's Stadium owner Alec Altman said a virtual tour seemed like a great way to market his business, which he said is much more impressive on the inside than can be gleaned from seeing its warehouse-like exterior.
"Having something that lets them see the inside of the building ... is a massive asset to us," he said.
The cost to produce a virtual tour varies depending on the size of the business and how many individual vantage points the client wants photographed, Rioux said.
The cost to photograph Binga's Stadium, a two-story, 14,000-square-foot facility, using 20 to 30 vantage points, will be about $2,600.
Rioux said the typical cost is more like $800 to $1,500 to create a virtual tour.
Street View tours have become popular worldwide, Rioux said, with a variety of Google contractors creating them around the world for more than 100,000 businesses so far.
Rioux said making virtual tours has taken him all over New England, and that he usually travels to one city a week and doesn't return there until a year later.
"I'm pretty much based wherever the work is," he said. "It's crazy, but it works."
J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at:
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