NEAL P. GOSWAMI
BENNINGTON -- Google is opening its indoor view program later this month to local businesses that want to showcase their products or services.
Oct. 26-28 locally
Jim Hilker, a certified affiliate of Google’s Street View Indoor program, said he will be in Bennington from Oct. 26 to Oct. 28 to capture images for businesses that sign up for the program. There is an initial, one-time photography and publication fee, Hilker said, but it is a "very small, affordable fee."
Google only allows the fees to be disclosed to businesses, he said.
The Google Internet service provides free hosting and exposure, Hilker said. "What it does is give them fantastic exposure in everything that Google does," he said.
It is linked to Google’s Street View service, which allows people to see the appearance of streets on Google’s map service. Businesses that participate will be able to offer an interactive, 360-degree virtual tour of the inside of an establishment. The virtual tours are connected to Street View and allow viewers to enter a business for a closer look.
Hilker said there are about 200 people across the country are affiliated with Google and certified to capture the images and submit them to the service. This month marks the first time that it is being offered in Vermont.
"This is our first time in Vermont. We’re planning to come three times a year," he said. "We just make our rounds from city to city."
Hilker said businesses in Burlington will be photographed this weekend. About 10 businesses can be completed each day. He said 12 images are taken from a camera mounted on tripod that rotates a full 360 degrees. The 12 images are stitched together to provide the virtual tours.
The service provides pictures from a minimum of five locations in a business. A business can choose to include as many as 30 locations, for additional fees, according to Hilker.
Interested businesses should register on the program’s website, www.streetviewindoors.com.
Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Joann Erenhouse said the service could provide new traffic for some local companies. "I think it can help some. If it’s a store Š it would give people an idea of what’s in the shop," Erenhouse said. "As the chamber director, yeah, I’m all for it."
Erenhouse said the service could help highlight "some fantastically attractive places that people don’t know much about." However, access to high-speed Internet and cell service must also improve for visitors to the area to take advantage.
"It’s a ‘yes’ because if you want to stay competitive you’ve got to stay abreast of the latest technology and be on as many search engines as possible," she said. "On the other hand, we’re a little bit challenged as far as access to being able to get that information. When we have people that can’t even use their cell phones past Henry’s Market, I don’t know."