Exploring Chilliwack businesses a new way
Imagine walking into a store without physically walking in.
Not at all, says Chilliwack photographer Frank Engel.
Engel, owner of EdgeCreation, a local marketing business, is a "trusted" Google photographer.
It's his job to make it possible.
Hired earlier this year by the online powerhouse for its new Business View application, Engel has been showing residents a new way of visiting their local shops – with online, interactive panoramas.
Basically, he's bringing Google Street View inside.
"If you've ever seen the [online] virtual tours realtors use to sell and market their houses, this is similar," says Engel.
Business View is a new Google app that's an extension of Street View, showcasing the interiors of businesses with a full, 360 degree panoramic image. All customers have to do is locate the participating business on Google Maps, click the thumbnail picture, and voila, they're inside.
It's an open door into the business, says Engel.
It's an interactive tool for potential customers to "walk through" a business, see the product, get a feel for what the store has to offer, before making the commitment to physically go to the store.
At all hours.
Over a two-hour period, Engel takes several still shots around a business making sure to get every angle imaginable, even some areas that others might have overlooked. Then, using the same technology used for Google Maps, he "stitches" the photos together to create a seamless panoramic image in which people can move from left to right, up and down, and zoom in and out with a click of their mouse.
Engel's background was perfect for the position.
Formerly of Berlin, Germany, Engel holds a business management and marketing degree and has more than 15 years of marketing and sales experience, working for such heavy hitters as Canon, Volkswagen, Ironman, Cannondale and Sugoi.
And he has a passion for photography that likely stems from his father's livelihood as a photojournalist. As a young boy, Engel held on to his father's every word when it came to photography.
"I'm fascinated by how emotions and moments are captured in photos," says Engel, who used to work part-time shooting sports for a German magazine.
When Engel and his wife moved to Canada five years ago, and subsequently started having a family, he decided to branch out on his own with EdgeCreation as a way of working a job he loves, while still having time at home with his three young children, all under the age of five.
Becoming a Google photographer was serendipitous.
"I was in the right place at the right time," he smiles.
Googling various photography related searches, Engel landed on Google's employment website.
It was the perfect fit, he says.
He was already doing most of the job requirements for his own business, but now he'd have the Google brand behind his name.
"Google is quality; it's one of the strongest brands out there," he says.
For Jayda Smith, sales and marketing manager at Anita's Organic Mill, it was a no brainer to link up with Business View.
Even though Anita's has been operating in Chilliwack for almost 25 years, many in the community still don't know all that it has to offer.
"It's unreal," she says. "Customers can walk through our entire store and see everything, every product we have, clear and crisp, before actually coming here. It's giving our customers the feeling they've already been to our store before even getting here."