Google offers virtual tour of KOMO studios

SEATTLE -- Apple has reportedly filed a patent that shows it plans to compete against Google's Street View navigation by introducing a 3-D version. Virtual navigations has been big business ever since Garmin launched the first hand held devices for public use in 2004.

But now navigations inside businesses are becoming a big business of its own. According to a Google spokeswoman, there are over 100,000 businesses that have joined Google Business Photos since it started 2 years ago.

The program is similar to Google Street View which lets users navigate the streets of many of the world's largest cities including much of the United States using real pictures.

Since 2007, Google has been using a specialize camera with 15 lenses that simultaneously snap a 360-degree view from on top atop a car or a snowmobile or even a backpack. Google Business Photos has also created new business for a growing class of independent photographers known as "Google trusted photographers".

Seattle photographer Juan Pablo Chiquiza is one of them. Like all Google trusted photographers, Chiquiza have been trained by Google to take 360-degree photos inside any business using the Google process. Hosting the virtual tour on Google is free but Google only accepts stitch photographs from its trusted photographers.

Each photographer negotiates with a business a fee for taking the photos, editing the photos to Google's specifications and submission to Google. The business keep ownership of the photos. Chiquiza recently photographed the KOMO studios. Step by step, he methodically walked around the news set, stopping to take pictures north, south, east and west.

He also photographed the weather center, where KOMO's Seth Wayne was kind enough to stand still for five minutes as Chiquiza worked around him.

But when you see the final product, Seth's face is blurred. "We care a lot about privacy, so we blur faces, blur licenses plates, and really sensitive information," Chiquiza said. When he's done, all the images are stitched together with what Chiquiza calls "Google magic."

View Larger Map