Yesterday Google announced the release of the new Photo Sphere app for ios. This was my first exposure to the Photo Sphere platform even though I later discovered it had been previously available for Android powered devices. I was aware of the Business View program which uses professional photographers to produce what are, in concept anyway, the same sort of 360 degree panoramic views of business locations (including interiors) and was fascinated by the possibilities.
The first question I had was whether or not the Photo Spheres app would allow anyone to upload these awesome images to their Google My Business location on Google Maps. The answer I got was yes and no. The Business View program is still separate from the Photo Sphere app. I can see the sense in this as there is always going to be some difference between the photos done by a professional photographer and those done by you or I so that does make sense.
My next question was, what CAN you do with Google Photo Spheres as a small business that will enhance the visual experience of your clients and potential clients? After all, a high quality experience is what both the public and Google expect from websites now and these Photo Spheres certainly fall into the “high quality, enhanced viewer experience” category.
I asked around a bit on the Google Groups and it seems that there are many options available for displaying Google Spheres on the web, including on your website. First you need to have a Google account. Then you have to download the (free) Google Spheres app for your particular device. I have an iPhone 5 so that is the version I got from the iTunes Store to experiment with.
There are simple instructions with the app on how to get started producing beautiful, panoramic views of pretty much any location with Google Spheres. Essentially you stand in one spot and activate the app. Holding the phone/device steady at eye level you turn in a complete circle. You then repeat the process with your device aimed up and then aimed down. This makes sure the device captures the full 360 degree field of view around your spot.
After you have your Photo Sphere photo completed you then hit upload to Maps. At that point it looks as though the photo goes to your new “Views” account on Google Maps where you are given the choice to upload photos to Maps. The Views page also provides you with the links that you need in order to embed the Photo Sphere photo on your website, link to it in an email and even share it on your social networks.
As an example I found a Photo Sphere on Views that was made by Evan Rapoport and embedded it here. The photo Sphere is a representation of the interior of Pellegrini Vineyards in Cutchogue, NY. You can use your mouse cursor to zoom in and out on the image and to turn it around to view the whole scene.
One of the business applications that immediately come to mind would be of course Real Estate. Imagine being able to have an inexpensive virtual tour on line of every home that you have for sale. Restaurants and retail stores of course would be another potential application. Also museums and historic places and amusement parks and attractions. The possibilities really are many and varied.
Another cool feature is the ability to link a series of Photo spheres together into what Google is calling “Constellations“. The result is pretty much the same as Google Street View. You can navigate through the Constellation by clicking on points and “going there” within the scene. This is great for places that are not yet on Street View or anywhere that could benefit from having a walking tour available for viewers (indoor or out).
While you can’t tie Photo Spheres of your business directly to your local business listing on Maps there are still ways that you can associate them. You can upload them to the photos section of your Google+ business profile for example. It also will potentially show up on Google Maps as well, just not be directly tied to your Google My Business listing in the way that Street View or Business View photos are.
If you would like some help exploring Photo Spheres for your business please feel free to contact me by live chat, Google Hangout, phone or email.