Photographer offers virtual business tours | SkyHiNews.com

Photographer offers virtual business tours

Hank Shell
hshell@skyhidailynews.com

Hank Shell / hshell@skyhidailynews.com

You can think of Bobby Barajas as a tour guide of sorts.

Take, for example, that fictional restaurant that just opened downtown.

It's the night of your anniversary, and you want an establishment with just the right ambiance.

In years past, you'd have had to settle for what you knew from experience, but with a little bit of technology and Barajas' knowhow, you can essentially walk through a restaurant that you've never actually set foot in, from the comfort of your own home.

In an age where we tend to spend more and more time interacting virtually with the world around us, a new generation of entrepreneurs and innovators are changing and improving how those interactions take place.

Barajas, 25, is one of them.

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His Winter Park-based business, Smart Tour Media, helps business owners bolster their online presence by creating web-accessible virtual tours with Google's Business View platform.

Business View is an extension of Google Maps' popular Street View feature, which allows users to take a virtual tour of public spaces.

"When people use [Google] Maps and get directions to a place, they kind of come to a standstill when they get to the door, because there's no way to have directional navigational tools once you're inside of a building like a college campus or an office building," Barajas said. "The Business View program is just a small step toward solving that problem, and businesses are able to reap some really neat benefits out of it."

To build a tour, Barajas sets a camera up at a number of different points within the business, shooting what is collectively a 360-degree view from each point.

He then uses proprietary software from Google to weave the individual photos into an interactive tour, which is then accessible through Google.

Barajas is one of 22 people in Colorado who are designated as Google Trusted Photographers, or independent contractors who create tours for Google's Business View platform.

Growing interest

Barajas first got involved with Google two years ago as a sort of brand ambassador for Business View before he was offered the opportunity to become an independent contractor last year.

In that time, Barajas's business has grown to offer a number of services including custom business tours.

The non-Google affiliated product can create tours for private homes, which Business View can't, allowing Barajas to cater to the real state market.

A number of businesses around the Fraser Valley have already recruited Barajas to create their own tours, and he said he's seen interest in Business View and custom virtual tours increasing.

He estimates that he's done just fewer than 100 virtual tours between Colorado and his hometown of Omaha, Neb.

His clients include a wide spectrum of business, from the Fraser Valley Recreation Center to the Denver Kush Club, one of Colorado's first recreational marijuana dispensaries.

But it's a new technology, and Barajas said the hardest part of his job is still convincing people that a virtual tour is a good idea.

"In the next one to two years, this is expected to be just as common as a website or a social media page," Barajas said. "There's over 10,000 business a month being published in the United States alone, and this is a global program that's continuing to migrate into new countries every year."

Integrating tours, commerce

In the world of technological innovation, the new barely has time to supplant the old before rumors of the next best thing begin to swirl.

As far as the next big thing in virtual tours, Barajas said he sees direct purchase options as a real possibility in the not-too-distant future.

"For example, if you were walking through the Divide Board Shop and saw a cool long board, you could tap the long board and could scroll and purchase directly from there," Barajas said.

Or take the anniversary reservation for example. Apps like OpenTable allow you to make reservations through Google's business listing, but in the future, you may be able to click directly on a specific table from the tour to check its availability.

Though Google has yet to go beyond the visual tour, Barajas is already adding more interactive features to his custom tours and said he doesn't think Google will be too far behind.

"I think in the next five years, we're going to see a lot of interesting changes in how we interact and navigate," he said.

For more information about Barajas's business, visit http://smarttourmedia.com.

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