Google continues to make progress on their project of enabling you to see the world without ever leaving your house (sadly, not totally a joke). The company is adding more and more information to Google Maps, this time encouraging Japanese businesses to upload panoramic images of their stores to Google's Business Photos database, which is hooked into Google Places, which of course is embedded in Google Maps. The Japanese focus is part of a broader roll out, with Business Photos accepting images from US, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.
The upshot is that, metaphorically but not really, you'll soon be able to navigate your way "inside" restaurants and shops digitally on Google Maps. Just like with other photos in the application, users will be able to pan, tilt, and zoom the 3D panoramic images of business. CNN's hyperlocal Asia travel site CNNGo, showing an admirable awareness of cultural sensibilities, mused that the feature will especially appeal to their "more shy" Japanese readers. We imagine that users elsewhere will find plenty of other uses, above and beyond the wow factor.
Google Maps spent some of last year expanding outward rather than digging deeper, putting a Google Earth tab in the application in place of the old "terrain" button. Then a few months ago the entire site got a major facelift designed especially to highlight places of interest like restaurants, hotels, and bars. So it makes sense that, having redesigned the site to help you find where you'd like to go, they're now bringing you inside those places.
Originally we were going to give you the instructional video that Google made for Japanese businesspeople, showing them how to get their images to Google Places. It was very straightforward but it was in Japanese and, honestly, it wasn't that interesting anyway. It's here if you're interested. Instead we're going to embed this related video that Google made for American business owners. It's... different.