Google Street View to head inside businesses

Google Street View

Google is to take its Street View project indoors, so users can see what's inside buildings from within the mapping service.

The feature, anticipated to launch in 2012, will enable users to enter the interiors of many locations directly from nearby streets when using Street View in Google Maps, according to a Google spokesperson.

Users will be able to view images of restaurant and workshop interiors. For now, big-brand chains, hospitals and lawyers' offices are excluded from the feature.

Photographers from Google will visit interested businesses and produce 360-degree images using fish-eye and wide-angle lenses.

"Building on the Google Art Project, which took Street View technology inside 17 acclaimed museums, this project is another creative implementation of Street View technology, to help businesses as they build their online presence," the spokesperson said.

"We hope to enable businesses to highlight the qualities that make their locations stand out through professional, high-quality imagery."

Because of Google Street View's previous problems which burst into life last year, privacy will be central to the success of the feature.

"It's essential that Google is proactive in addressing the privacy concerns highlighted by Street View and privacy campaigners before this system is rolled out," said Nick Pickles, director of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch.

"The voluntary opt-in is an important first step, and where businesses and organisations decide to allow Google cameras onto their premises, it is important Google ensure people are not identifiable and, where possible, premises are photographed empty."

The feature is planning to launch in London and Paris, as well as cities in Japan, Australia, New Zealand and the US.

Interested businesses can register now by heading here. They will then be contacted when the service is launched.