Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Virtual Tourism, the Sistine Chapel from your armchair

Well, it still never ceases to amaze me just how well travelled we can be without leaving our home. An internet connection is all we need and we can be a virtual tourist.
The world is responding to our desire for imagery whether that is for shopping or visiting tourist spots or seeing virtual exhibitions. Here’s a small collection of museum and art exhibitions from very well know locations around the world.
Starting with a real exhibition at the Fundacion MAPFRE in Barcelona. The exhibition is called The Triumph of Colour. From Gauguin to Matisse. It features paintings from the collections of the Musee d’Orsay and the Musee de l’Orangerie and runs until 10th Jan 2016. It’s a pity that it’s not on an HTTPS server so click on the image below and a new page will open. When you find a ‘+’ sign this means you can see the painting close up, and look for other icons to find written and audio commentaries. Explore and see what you think. (It’s in Spanish, I did look for other language versions but I could not find any).
Fundacion MAPFRE Barcelona Virtual Tour
Next here’s a Google Street View tour of the Orangerie Museum in Paris from way back in Dec 2011. Pretty cool for those days and still excellent today, it’s one of my favourite exhibitions in Paris. It’s on a HTTPS server so just click on the image embedded below and move around and zoom.

And finally for some real funky stuff, we have The Sistine Chapel at the Vatican in Rome. There is so much detail here, it’s just amazing. The controls are quite ‘sensitive’ and I can easily end up with the picture spinning, but my goodness, it is so beautiful. Again it’s not HTTPS so this will open another window, but with such high resolution you can forgive anything. [Post edit: Please note this tour is in 'Flash' which is not supported by Apple iPhone or iPad which means it will not work on these. You need to access this on other devices and non-mobile devices such as desktop or laptop. It would be worth the Vatican re-engineering this into a non-Flash version to be accessible to so many more people. I think it's worth it]. 

There’s plenty more to come with virtual reality, watch that space….virtual or otherwise
Go and explore on line.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Perfect for your Christmas Presents!

This place is just perfect for your Christmas presents and stocking fillers. Or at any time really. Takes me back…
Jacksons Models in Wigton, (specialists in model railways and diecast models) the place to spend a while…
Click on the image above and move about the premises.
Jackson Models before the Google Tour on an iPad

Jackson Models AFTER the Google Tour on an iPad. LOVELY.

What a difference a day makes!


Monday, 9 November 2015

Jewellery by Michael King, photography and Google virtual tours

Following on from our previous post, we were delighted to do some photography for Michael King Jewellery including a Google Virtual Tour, which we start with here. Try clicking and dragging on the first image below.

Jewellery by Michael King

Jewellery is one of the most complex and difficult areas of photography, due to reflections on polished surfaces and facets in the jewels themselves. Special lighting helps, but mainly it’s experience plus a fair helping of time and patience to get it absolutely right. We think it’s worth it!

Jewellery by Michael King

Michael King has been commissioned for ceremonial crosses for bishops and Elizabeth II, items for films and many other unique pieces of jewellery. They have recently made the designer pieces for the House of Holland consumer experience on the catwalk – see our earlier post.

Jewellery by Michael King, signature piece

Here’s some more of my favourite shots.

Jewellery by Michael King

Jewellery by Michael King
Jewellery by Michael King
Jewellery by Michael King
Jewellery by Michael King
Of course we did a Google tour, which you can find for yourself on Google and Google Maps, and now they are presented like this on the web when you search for Michael King Jewellery (for example using an iPad below).

A vast improvement to what went before, I think you will agree (below).

A pleasure and a privilege to have worked with Jewellery by Michael King. Thank you.


Smart jewellery, wearable tech and Henry Holland

When is wearable tech really cool?
The answer; when it’s a Henry Holland fashion statement.
It all started with a teaser from Henry Holland of House of Holland ‘to create a consumer experience as part of a catwalk presentation showcase’. See Henry Hollands YouTube teaser
When you take your debit card and just wave it at a screen in order to purchase something, you are already doing something pretty smart.

But imagine if you could make a purchase simply with the wave of your hand using a pendant, a ring, a bracelet or just a cuff on your jacket then you can immediately satisfy even the most hardened of shoppers desires.
See now, buy now. Contactless payments.
It’s called NFC or near field communication. In simple terms you bring your special piece of jewellery towards what you want to purchase and hey presto you’ve bought it. London fashion week SS16 was buzzing with wearable purchasing technology in various forms.
It was demonstrated most beautifully by Henry Holland using wearable tech rings that allowed a purchase, in this case, by Alexa Chung and Daisy Lowe, of items being worn by models on the catwalk.
We’ve been involved with a photographic project with the company that made the special designer rings for the catwalk show…..more on that later. The jewellery for the catwalk was colourful and oversized in order to be seen. Henry Holland calls his wearable designs ‘connected jewellery’.
Originally devised as a project by Visa Europe Collab, this was to test the feasibility for consumers and it went down a storm.
You won’t be able to buy the miniaturised version in the shops just yet, but you can be sure it’s on its way.

Other useful links

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Customised virtual tours on-line

So you want something different. Customised virtual tours on-line
This is the fourth in a short run of posts about virtual tours on-line. The first three have been about Google Trusted Tours. But right now I want to turn my attention to non-Google tours, our own customised tours.
These are great if you want something out of the ordinary.
Anyway, to give you an idea of what we are talking about here’s a few that we made earlier. Click on the images in this post to access the tours. You can click on the maps or click on the ‘targets’ on screen, or use the icons at the bottom to move around the businesses. These are virtual tours.
Cockermouth Leisure Centre customised virtual tour
Cedar Gallery Windermere customised virtual tour
Artemis Gallery customised virtual tour
These are ideal for large establishments, or places with geographically widespread facilities or rooms. It means that there is no need to ramble through plain corridors to get from one room to another or from a swimming pool to a gym area in a large sports complex for instance. 
A customised virtual tour can be designed around what you want to show. They help turn virtual footfall into real footfall and present important value considerations to your potential customers.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Not seeing your virtual tour on FaceBook?

Well, this is a reasonable question. How do I get my virtual tour onto FaceBook?

The first thing to note is that FaceBook uses https by default. ‘https’ means it has secure browsing which helps to prevent hijacking of your pages by others. It has a higher level of encryption.
The impact is that if you want to reference other media (such as a virtual tour) then that needs to be on an https server too! Many people struggle with this. It means that if you try to embed a tour held on a non secure server it will never ever show up on FaceBook.
How do you know if you have a web site on an https server? Easy, look at your web address. If it says http (before the www) then it is not https! You can also check with your host.
Google Street View Trusted tours is https. So these can be displayed easily on FaceBook. We have many examples on our own customised FaceBook tab of 360 virtual tours (above) that we have completed, and many of our clients have included these tours on their FaceBook pages too. They wanted to integrate their tour with their social media. It makes perfect sense. It’s really great for retailers, galleries, restaurants, gyms…. and anyone wanting to make the most of their social media.
You don’t have to use your tour on FaceBook of course, instead you can embed it in your blog and in web sites whether using http or https.
As ever, it’s horses for courses. For instance, we also do customised tours (see next blog) which don’t go on FaceBook unless someone uses https for their web site.
If your expectation is that you want your tour to integrate with your social media then you need the higher level of security afforded by a Google Tour, (unless you have an https web site already). Don’t waste your money on anything less.
Depending on what is requested by a client, we can produce both sorts of tour, all at the same time, thus saving some time, and giving clients both options and freedom of choice.
Next a little more on those customised tours.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Is Google good for your business?

Google has been undergoing some upheavals recently, in terms of organisation, search engines, street view etc. Some things have not changed, for instance what you add on your Business Google Plus page, still drives what is shown on your Knowledge Card when someone searches. What is shown includes your photos, reviews, posts and of course your virtual tour.
And in terms of Street View Trusted, it’s still vitally important to have a Google Virtual Tour. The reason is this:
According to an independent survey, virtual tours help double interest in business listings. After all once you are listed by Google and your knowledge card comes up in the listings then your potential customer has the option to go straight to your Google Tour. No other tours have this immediate accessibility for your customers. And that is the point! Don’t forget that you can also put these tours on your web site. (click and drag on the one below).

For hotels, when comparing a search listing with and without a tour, those who view a listing with a virtual tour are twice as likely to book a room.
Amongst the younger age groups they are even more likely to book a room based on seeing a search listing with a tour!
67% of people want to see more business search listings with virtual tours and only 7% said that virtual tours are unnecessary. So more people want to see more of them. They want to trust what they see and that’s the ‘Trusted’ part of Street View Trusted means.
The Google Virtual Tour increases the accessibility of your business in a Google search. End of story.
Next Up, Get your virtual tour on your FaceBook Page.

Can you trust Google?

Street View | Trusted – what’s this all about?

I thought I would make a specific point about what ‘Trusted’ means in Google’s terms. It’s really important that when searching the web, that not only do you get relevant and appropriate results quickly, it is also important that you can TRUST what you see. (Street View Trusted is basically Street View but indoors, it’s inside a business and works in a similar way to Street View, aka ‘See Inside’).
So, for instance, if you see a lovely hotel room using Google See Inside, then that REALLY IS a room from that hotel and it reflects the typical standard of that room type.
Or, for instance, if on Google Search you see pictures of a spa, or a kennels, or a restaurant…. and then you decide to book on that basis, then what you see on line is what you are going to experience when you get there.
This is the integrity of the Google Trusted system and it’s not only important to Google but it’s important to your customers.
Qualified Google Trusted Photographers such as ourselves produce photographs and Google Tours for hotels, retailers and service providers.
AND as a service provider, retailer or hotelier, it should be important to you that you are accurately and honestly represented on-line.
Equally it’s also important to demonstrate that you are being represented honestly on-line to your customers.
Get your customers to understand the value of ‘Trusted’ when you get your Google tour.


Thursday, 1 October 2015

Another fab Google tour from Scientific Arts Limelighting Cockermouth

I don’t put up every tour we do, and here we have a particularly interesting one. Limelighting is a lighting shop set inside a vintage cinema/theatre, so the layout is very unusual. There are layers of lights resting where the seating on the steps would have been arranged and the ceilings are vaulted. My goodness do they do a lot of lights! It's on two floors. Clearly a unique location.

We loved it. And it was very challenging to photograph.

Here’s the tour, just click and drag on screen……

Here’s the Google knowledge card before the Google tour when viewed on a pc:
Before the Google tour on a pc, Limelighting Cockermouth
Now the result AFTER the Google tour with us, clearly now it’s presence on the web is very interesting and inviting and you really know what the business is about:
AFTER the Google tour on a pc, Limelighting Cockermouth
It's even better if you Google 'lighting shops Cumbria', Limelighting is the first on the list and now has a great knowledge card. The pin on the map shows you exactly where they are and you can be a virtual tourist in the shop. Try Googling it now.
Result when Googling Lighting Shops Cumbria
Here's a few of my favourite photos from the shoot - you can see them when clicking 'See Photos' if you bring up the knowledge card by Googling 'Limelighting Cockermouth' or 'lighting shops Cumbria'.
Limelighting Cockermouth
Limelighting Cockermouth
Limelighting Cockermouth
Limelighting Cockermouth
Limelighting Cockermouth


Another fab Google Tour by Scientific Arts, King Kong Climbing Centre Keswick

Well this was a challenge which included not just an extensive climbing facility, but also children’s play areas and castle, cafe, shop and ice wall.
It’s not everyday that you get to photograph an ice wall. Essentially this is a refrigerated room, where climbers can come to learn how to work with ice. In fact on the day we did the shoot, the guys from Berghaus were there testing out their new gear. We had to work fast and took less than a minute to capture the wall. Here we are looking upwards towards the lights and fans. The ropes are hanging down.

I must do my ‘before’ and ‘after’, so here goes, this is what the centre looked like on an iPad before the tour. It has a poor Street View image.
King Kong Climbing Centre Keswick before the Google tour on an iPad
Now after the tour, we have selected the entrance to the shop and centre as the Street View Image, and this is now more appropriate. The See Inside (tour) and Photos are clear and demonstrate what business is about.
King Kong Climbing Centre Keswick AFTER our Google tour on an iPad
And here are some of my favourite still shots from the day – these and others are newly displayed on ‘Photos’ above.
King Kong Climbing Centre Keswick from the outside
King Kong Climbing Centre Keswick
Dragon at the King Kong Climbing Centre Keswick
Children's Castle at King Kong Climbing Centre Keswick
Ah, Cakes! at the King Kong Climbing Centre Keswick

Coffee and Climbing at King Kong Climbing Centre Keswick
King Kong Climbing Centre Keswick
King Kong Climbing Centre Keswick
King Kong Climbing Centre Keswick

A great place for all the family and for shopping!


Sunday, 13 September 2015

Success at Town and Country Interiors Carlisle

See what happens when you get a Google Tour with us! (see our earlier post on Town and Country Interiors

Congratulations to Town and Country Interiors in Carlisle who have been voted independent retailer of the year by Carlisle Living for the second year in a row.
See our Google Tour of Town and Country Interiors here. Congratulations once again!

Mobile branding and Google's new look

Well I’ve read the blurb and read the comments and feedback, and it’s clear people are divided over Google’s new font. Maybe it’s a ‘marmite’ design or maybe it’s just change. It’s rolled out now and you can read about it here. The Google Blog

It’s interesting that in the blog, Google talk about delivering Google products on all platforms from desktop PC, to TV, to Mobile….to whatever. So it’s likely that Google were going to select a font that worked on all platforms (or as many as foreseeably possible) without any glitches or transformations between them. Basically it’s scalable and easy to read.
There is an animated logo, with four coloured spots – I’ve seen it in the blog, but have yet to experience it myself. Some people actually think mobile logos are the way to go in mobile branding, rather than static paper based branding. However personally I’m not sure how long that interest will last. Eye catching yes…..but…..proceed with caution, if you are considering doing this out there.
The microphone (that you see above) and the single capital ‘G’ are now multicoloured to match the four Google colours.
At the end of the day whatever you may think of it, it’s a strong brand image, clear and friendly.


Wednesday, 19 August 2015

What is Google Hotel Finder?

Google Hotel Finder allows your prospective guests to view hotels on line (it does what it says on the can). However the things I particularly like about it are
  • The map – I click on a hotel in a list and it shows me exactly it’s location.
Google Hotel Finder

  • I can expand or contract my search geographically by time on foot, by car or train.
  • I can use filters, for instance on price, class, amenities, rating
  • I can choose dates for the stay.
  • I can compare prices and also compare prices for different dates.
  • I can book on line through the usual suspects (in the UK Expedia etc) through links on the page.
  • Everything I need is there consolidated on one page in an instant.
  • It works on mobile and tablet.
To me what’s most powerful about this, is the use of the map plus the way the hotels are consolidated onto one page and that’s what gives a good user experience.
The Google branding is less intrusive than some online travel agents and this means as a hotelier you can have a better and a more direct branding engagement with your customer up to the point of booking.
Once you are on Hotel Finder, how do you get up the rankings? Well it’s not exactly clear. It never is! We’ve done some ‘random’ but systematic research and certainly Ads play a part (obviously!), having a verified Google Plus page for the hotel plays a part, having photos and Google tours and activity such as reviews also plays a part. In the UK, links with online travel agents and distributors who can share your room and pricing data in an instant also helps (and since you might be doing this already all you need to do is harness the power of Google Hotel Finder).
Hotel Finder is another way of getting your hotel to market, and it is free from Google. The potential reach around the globe for hoteliers is enormous, don’t miss out.


Friday, 14 August 2015

Hoteliers……are you missing out good marketing that’s Free?

So far I’ve used some of these posts to talk directly to shop retailers and service suppliers.
And now I want to talk to hotel owners. However in the main, everything that I have already said with reference to retail and service providers also applies to the hotel business.
Google Hotel 3 pack
Summarising here:
  • Already Google has done a fairly good job at listing most hotels on their Hotel Finder shown above in the subtly outlined box that appears when searching for ‘hotels in Windermere UK’ (Take a look for your hotel at www.google.com/hotels ).
  • If you have not verified your hotel business, then you must do so now, to avoid lowly rankings in Hotel Finder or sabotage.
  • Once verified you can control, images, Google tours and information that is shown up about your hotel both in Google searches and in Hotel Finder.
  • Once you are seen as being active by Google then it is possible for your hotel to rank more highly in Google Hotel Finder (above) than in traditional organic SEO searches for your web site.
  • The Google Plus business page is FREE, verification is FREE and the data is very easy to maintain and FREE to maintain.
  • Hosting of pictures, data and Google tours is FREE on Google Plus, and this data and imagery drives most of what appears in Google searches and Hotel Finder.
  • Google acts as a free gazetteer for your business.
Consider it as a business decision to use it or not. Remember that it does not impact your web site or web site SEO – in fact it’s way more important than that – find out why next.
So what exactly is Google Hotel Finder?


Another Fab Google Trusted Tour – Town and Country Interiors Carlisle

Well, we’re really pleased with this shoot. It’s at Town and Country Interiors in Carlisle, a super local retailer. Try using the tour below.

Of course, I just have to show you the impact of the Google tour – the before and after when searching for the business. Here is the before image on the iPad (you get similar results on other devices). The images were very dark and there was not real clarity of the business in the imagery.

And below we now see the result AFTER the Google Tour and Photos.

  • Notice that the Street View image has been improved to show the clear and inviting entrance – this was done by manually connecting the tour to Street View.
  • The logo is displayed – making branding easy, again using one of our stills.
  • All the images are clear, sharp, fresh and inviting and make it very clear what the business is about.
Here’s a few of my favourite still photographs that went on line with the tour.
Town and Country Interiors Carlisle

Town and Country Interiors Carlisle

Town and Country Interiors Carlisle

Town and Country Interiors Carlisle

Town and Country Interiors Carlisle

Try Googling for ‘Town and Country Interiors Carlisle’ yourself and see what you see.