Google is taking its own digital+live approach to brick-and-mortar businesses with the (somewhat vanilla-named) “Business Photos from Google.” The idea is to bring its 360-degree Street View technology off the pavement and inside the walls so that guests can see inside a business before they ever visit. Individuals will be able to visit a location’s Google Places page online or on a smartphone, and from there take the full tour of the business’s interior. Google photographers are currently visiting a few dozen cities and metro areas worldwide, Street Cam in tow, to build up the database.
This certainly feels like the first baby step in what may herald a whole new era in online shopping. Imagine: interactive tours of thousands of retail locations, a sort of online augmented reality experience where you could see an item on a shelf, select it, and find out more about it on the spot… maybe even purchase one. At the very least, you bet you’ll be seeing ads related to the content featured in the tour. Done wrong, of course, an AR shopping experience just feels like a clunky old flash site weighed down by too many whiz-bang animations. But if Google can pull off something as ambitious as mapping the insides of our cities, why not turn that information into dollars for the stores it’s mapping? Why not turn that view into a click, and a click into a sale? Or at least a way to get more information about that particular product? Might not work for every business, but we’re seeing a lot of shiny guitars on that wall up there that merit a closer look.