INTERNET users researching a trip to Cork can now take a virtual tour inside the city’s bars, restaurants, hotels and other businesses — a move which traders hope will boost tourism.
Google’s Maps service already features 360 degree interior photo tours of places like Le Chateau Bar on Patrick Street, Market Lane Bar and Restaurant on Oliver Plunkett Street, Curran’s Restaurant on Adelaide Street, and the Long Valley on Winthrop Street.
Users of Google’s street maps will already be familiar with the 360° concept, but these indoor visits really are a step up.
Frankly, I’d never really paid attention to the ceiling cornices in the Chateau, or the maritime photos on the walls of the Long Valley, but I’ll be obliged to go back now — purely for research purposes, of course.
The photos posted thus far on search engine Google have all been taken by Cork freelance photographer John Roche.
The images are of excellent quality, brightly lit and well framed to give the panoramic tour a real sense of intimacy.
John Roche explains: "Each ‘shot’ that the visitor walks through requires about 12 pictures. Google provide the software to blend all of the photos together. There is a set format for the tour, which is linked to the street view.
"Google approached me three months ago, and I agreed to train with them. I qualified six weeks ago, and I shot the Long Valley pictures about a month ago. I’ve recently done the Rochestown Park Hotel, and I’m talking to lots of restaurants, pubs, retail outlets and hotels.
"I’ve taken some pictures of the Carrigaline Court Hotel, and I’ll be adding images of a bridal suite that they’re setting up for a wedding in a few weeks from now. The aim is to show the premises at its absolute best."
Critically, the tours also show Cork at its best. For Cork businesses, the hope is that this user-friendly tool will show the charms of the Rebel County — and shortly Kerry also — to the wider world.
Google’s interior tours of pubs, hotels and restaurants are already a big hit with visitors to cities like New York, London and Paris. Dublin also came on board this year.
John Roche’s range of services starts at €195 for ten panoramic shots, with more extensive tours costing extra. For a global audience, it’s a small price.
John Roche said: "It’s inexpensive. It’s a once-off charge, with nothing extra, and includes professionally taken still shots which can be used for other promotional material.
"With Business Photos, your customers can walk around, explore, and interact with your business like never before. The big advantage over a video is that it is interactive. Customers will be able to truly experience your business — just like being there."
One of the first businesses in Cork to sign up for the new technology was The Long Valley Bar, one of the oldest establishments in the city.
Proprietor Peadar Moynihan said: "I think the Google tour will be great for tourists planning a holiday in Cork, allowing them to virtually visit many of the popular pubs and restaurants in the city from the comfort of home ".
John Roche’s training as a ‘Google trusted photographer’ means that he knows how to take the panoramic images in the required format. He is also responsible for the uploading to Google, and making sure the virtual tour meets the privacy and high standards required before it can be added to the internet.
Some of the additional photographs taken during a shoot may be used in future web promotional products. Mr Roche is finding that his services are being requested by organisations that welcome the public through its doors.
Visible on Google, the tours can also be integrated into a company’s own website as well as almost any other web platform, including social networks.
To view any of the business premises cited in this article, simply visit Google and click on Maps. Key in the name of the business and the street name and click on the little human icon, and away you go.
Examples of John’s photography and more information about the virtual tours and Street View can be found on his www.johnroche.com website.
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