• ‘Google Maps Business View' offers virtual tours online


    PITTSBURGH - “It's very one of a kind, there's nothing else like it around,” said Bonnie Bevington, co-owner of the Grand Valley Inn.

    When you step inside the Grand Valley Inn, it feels like a taste of home. And now, this Fallston restaurant wants to make sure everyone knows it.

    “I think it's very inviting,” said Bevington.  “And I think if you only look at the outside, you might not realize that.”

    That's why owners Bonnie and Bob Bevington have turned to a trend that's now popping up in Pittsburgh called, "Google Maps Business View". 

    Google launched the program in 2012 so patrons could see inside a business without ever stepping inside.  Bonnie has hired Chris Vendilli, a Google certified photographer, to shoot her company. Vendilli operates ProFromGo Internet Marketing.

    “You can kind of experience the business and immerse yourself right from your mobile device,” said Vendilli. 

    With a 180-degree lens, Vendilli is taking thousands of pictures to string together. 

    Bevington showed him the rooms she wants highlighted.

    The question some people have is, why not just take a series of photos on your own personal camera and put them on your website? Well, between the camera's high resolution and the post-production, it can make you feel like you're actually inside the room.

    Using Google software, Chris demonstrated the finished tour of Sonoma Grille in Downtown Pittsburgh. 

    The 360-degree views let you zoom in on the bar, check out the dining room and even go outside. 

    Dr. Audrey Guskey, marketing professor at Duquesne, says it's already making a difference for companies.

    “It lets them see who we are; this is what we stand for; this is what we've got,” said Guskey.

    In fact, more than 250,000 companies around the globe have already decided to let the cameras in.

    If a company does have a virtual tour, it will simply pop up on your screen when you Google the business.

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