Capital Region cities, get ready for your close-up.
Google Maps Street View is coming to the area next week to photograph your streets, shops and restaurants, inside and out. The images will be used to create a Google Virtual area guide, sponsored by local chambers of commerce and providing users a 360-degree virtual tour of local businesses.
“If you think about most visitor guides for any city, they list establishments like hotels who list their amenities: We have a great pool, we have great rooms and so on,” said Adam Hilker, a Google Trusted Photographer. “With this guide, you can see what the rooms look like, what the pool looks like. It’s a lot more powerful. You can really showcase a town.”
Hilker and a team of Google photographers will start with Schenectady and have already partnered with the Chamber of Schenectady County on the project. They were originally scheduled to photograph the Electric City today, but rain in the forecast scared them away until next Tuesday.
A little sun can go a long way, Hilker said, since the goal is not to capture a town as Google Maps might normally capture it through its Street View program. After all, the virtual guides are designed to be promotional.
“We’re getting higher-quality pictures than the cars can do,” he said. “We will be taking a tripod down the sidewalks and we’ll have more choice over which pictures we use. On Street View, you’ll see people bending over or blurry bikes whizzing by and other not-so-flattering images. We want to showcase the towns.”
Photographers will also converge on Cobleskill next Tuesday, followed by Saratoga Springs on June 12 and Amsterdam, Johnstown and Gloversville on June 17.
Businesses located along commercial corridors will likely be included in the guide’s exterior shots. But any businesses that wish to have their interiors featured in the virtual guide should sign up at www.placesmobile.com. A 360-degree virtual tour featured in the guide and on Google Maps costs $96 a year. Additional shots and promotion, such as photos that appear in Google search and on Google Plus, cost an additional $250.
Businesses can also request to be featured the day Google arrives in their city, Hilker said.
“A lot of times what happens is we get a lot of interest from businesses who just spot us walking by with our tripods, but didn’t have time for shots that day,” he said. “So we schedule for another day later that week. That happens about half the time because they just want time to prepare. Our main goal is to let people know we’re coming so the place looks good.”
Google came to the region nearly two years ago to capture 360-degree shots inside businesses for a project called Street View Indoors. Those shots were used on Google Maps.
The goal this time, Hilker said, is to get updated shots for the virtual guide and to capture other places the Google cars just couldn’t go, like the Jay Street pedestrian mall. And for some cities, like Schenectady, it also provides a chance for major new additions to a city’s downtown, like Mexican Radio and Quirky, to be featured.
Before they head to the Capital Region, Hilker and his team will be photographing the suburbs of Buffalo and Syracuse and Finger Lakes wine country. They have already done the cities of Buffalo, Rochester, Ithaca and Cortland.