Google provides inside view of Vt. businesses - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Google provides inside view of Vt. businesses

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BENNINGTON, Vt. -

"Not just California, Hawaii, England, Africa, Cambodia -- I mean everyone in the world can just click on our link and walk into our gallery," said Joey Kulkin with the Fiddlehead Art Gallery.

Not literally walk -- but virtually. A new service in Vermont called Google Business Photos allows for a 360 view of the inside of buildings.

"The overall idea of this program is to give users the same experience they would get in a store -- that very same experience online," said Eric Wood with Google.

When Google Business Photos launched last year it was only available in major cities, but its been branching out ever since. Over the last few weeks Wood has completed 15 businesses in Bennington and anticipates doing 50 more within a month. Over a dozen have been completed in Burlington as well.

Kulkin said two hours after their photos went online, they lured in shoppers from New York, who were having lunch across the street. "They were playing on their toy and they wanted to see what they were doing next. And for whatever reason Fiddlehead comes up -- and they saw the Google virtual tour. They took the tour inside our gallery and they stumbled across the street, came into our gallery, and bought stuff," he said.

And for businesses that don't necessarily sell a product, like the public access station CAT-TV, they hope the service can be used as an educational tool.  "We thought it was a good opportunity for people to at home, to maybe get a tour of what we have here -- of our facilities, our editing suite, our studio and what we offer. For people who are kind of interested, maybe they can look at it at home and then come in for a open house," said the station's Mike Cutler.

But with many technological advances, not everyone is on board. Wood says not all businesses are in the best shape, so photographing the insides for the whole world to see causes some hesitation for owners. CAT-TV was also concerned about revealing too much.  "There were a few things -- obviously we have a lot of valuable equipment.  What do we show, what don't we show? But after seeing the Fiddlehead example on Google -- it was very cool, so we wanted to jump on board with that," he said.

The Better Bennington Corporation subsidized part of the cost and the local businesses paid the remaining $100 to have the service. Costs for Google Business Photos are normally around $200 to $300 per company.     

The Google photographer anticipates traveling to Brattleboro next to offer the service.

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