Google feature takes you inside East TN businesses

5:47 PM, Jan 28, 2013   |    comments
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If you use Google Maps then you've probably tried the Street View feature.

It changes your perspective from overhead to street level so you can see the outside of an address and look around the area 360-degrees.

A local company is taking the concept inside.

If you're in downtown Jefferson City you can walk through the front door of The Creek Cafe. You can also walk through the door on a Google Maps Virtual Tour on your computer or smart phone.

"Taking Google's existing Street View product basically bringing that Street View technology to the inside of businesses," Jonathan Price / Knox360 said.

The idea is to show the inside of a business all the way around, 360 degrees, as if you were really there.

"The camera uses a specialized fish eye lens to be able to capture the 360-degree view. Then it's on a rotating device, a panoramic head," he explained.

Google started Virtual Tours about a year ago and recruited professional photographers to get trained and certified. That includes Lisa and Jonathan Price who started in May.

"Part of that training is learning how to capture in any business the perfect lighting," he said. "We take overexposed and regular exposed and underexposed shots and merge them all together to create the perfect lighting in the post production."

Their company, Knox360, has already produced virtual tours for several Knoxville car dealerships and the Chamber of Commerce.

"Our goal is to highlight the best of their business," he said.

They recently did a shoot at The Creek Cafe owned by Spencer Jones and his wife.

"It did make me nervous about how our place looked before they came in to do the shoot because you want it to look the best it can. It's going to be immortalized online for awhile," Jones said.

The shoot took about an hour. Then the Prices will knit together the pieces to make the Virtual Tour meet Google's high standards.

"People are doing searches and seeing their business pop up with a little See Inside photo. They click the See Inside and it blows up into a full high quality tour of the business location," Price said.

So far, more that 100,000 businesses are featuring Virtual Tours.

The price starts at $450 and goes up depending on the size of the building.

Spencer Jones is excited about reaching out to potential new customers.

"It removes the mystery of the business before you come in. You know how it is, you're always a little leery of trying something new so if you can get it and see what it looks like before you come in then it gives you a little bit of comfort before you try the place out," Jones said.

You can try it out on your computer or smart phone

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