The cameras of Google Streetview have already scoured the streets, hiking paths and even the ski slopes of Switzerland. With Google's labs located in Zürich, it was only a matter of time before virtual tours of shops and businesses were to become a reality.
Google Business Photos - A Logical Extension
My initial experience with this new feature happened when I accidentally clicked on a double arrow in Streetview. Here, I had stumbled into Simply Soup while virtually strolling around and looking for a new restaurant! It was as if I had entered the place in real life: Once inside, I was able to navigate around and even read at the menu!
Meet Olga Bushkova - Official Google Business Photographer in Zürich
Out of curiosity, I decided to meet one of the photographers to find out more about this new Google feature. Olga Bushkova is a trusted Google photographer, and she was happy to get together at one of her client's: That same Simply Soup restaurant!
Using a high-end Canon DSLR camera mounted on a proprietary Google tripod head, Olga will carefully map out and document any business. For each step, she has to produce 12 photographs: Starting from the North, she will take three photographs in each of four directions. Once combined, the three shots will result in one high-definition HDR photograph per direction.
This process takes lots of patience, as well as a set of trained eyes! Because Olga has to make sure that no seasonal items like Christmas decorations, weekly specials, or other obtrusive objects end up in her pictures. As a result, the beauty of her panoramic virtual walk-throughs is that they are timeless.
Special software then allows her to "stich" the numerous shots together based on GPS coordinates, which in turn creates a virtual walk-through of the business.
Olga has a respectable list of references, and work seems not to be slowing down any time soon. But Olga has found out a lot about how Swiss businesses function: "Sometimes, businesses don't want to be first. They would rather wait and see what their competitors are doing."
Google Streetview has become increasingly popular here in Switzerland - despite some of the initial privacy concerns. This trend is not passing by some Swiss businesses who want to gain an edge on their competition: "The other day, an optician asked me how many other opticians were using Google Business Photos. When he found out that none of them do, he responded 'Great! When can we get started?'"
In Switzerland, participating businesses include cafes and restaurants, hotels, barber shops and boutiques. But also some less likely establishments are among the early adopters: A car shop, a karate gym and even a winery!
- Olga Bushkova's Official Website
- Directory of Google Business Photographers in Switzerland
- Gallery with all virtual tours in Switzerland
- Google Business Photos Official Website