New Site Showcases 360° Virtual Tours

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A new website offers a unique, immersive way to tour island restaurants, shops, galleries, parks and beaches. HawaiiHolo is the brainchild of Honolulu business photographer Minn Tun, who has built a name for himself as a Google Maps partner.

Tech giant Google has been tireless expanding its map offerings around the world and in Hawaii, from dabbling in local coupons and adding bus schedules in 2007 to bringing its mobile Street View camera cars to Honolulu in 2009. There have been several updates since, and while Apple is following suit, Google continues to widen the gap, going underwater, and capturing street art, for example.

“Im a certified Google Business photographer,” Tun said on Bytemarks Cafe on Wednesday. “What we do is we bring Google Street View indoors — we shoot the inside of all the local businesses so businesses can showcase their interiors to people around the world.”

Google’s Business View was born in 2010 as Google Store Views, and will soon be renamed Street View Trusted. But the idea has remained largely the same: allowing Google Maps users to virtually wonder off the streets and through doorways into the locations they’re searching for.

Tun, who was mostly a hobbyist photographer, joined the program in 2012, and it soon became his main business. He’s created 360-degree virtual tours of dozens of locations, some paid clients and some popular local points of interest. And people were certainly discovering his work the same way I did: stumbling across a Business View tour while looking up a restaurant (in my case, this tour of JJ French Bistro for a recent blog post).

Business Views are shown in Google search results as part of the “Knowledge Graph” sidebar (labeled “See Inside”), linked off of Google Street View, and featured on Google+ local pages. But there’s no easy way to browse through locations that have virtual tours attached.

Enter HawaiiHolo.

“HawaiiHolo came about as a side project where I could post some of the Google tours that I’ve completed,” Tun told me last week. “It’s still in the early stages, but for the most part, we would like to provide people with a visual and virtual experience of Hawaii and its local attractions, shops, and restaurants.”

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Tun said HawaiiHolo now has a team of five people, three of them co-founders. I asked him if he saw HawaiiHolo someday becoming the go-to destination for business information, rather than Yelp.

“Dethroning Yelp would be wonderful, but our short term goals are bit more modest,” he replied. “Finding a way to provide a unique and valuable experience to visitors to our islands is the focus at this point.”

But the site does offer a tantalizing platform for more than virtual tours.

“Articles, videos, and reviews will most certainly be a part of the project,” Tun said. “Any type of content that is engaging.”

On the radio, Tun pointed out that Google’s Business View offerings are getting better all the time.

“We want to leverage new emerging technologies — for example, overlays that can be put on top of Google tours,” he explained.

Tun pointing out that current tours are silent and static and need to be clicked through sequentially from the entrance to get to the back of the house, and offered up his recently created tour for Hy’s Steak House as an example.

“They have a beautifully renovated executive level in the back, and an overlay can let you jump to specific locations within the tour,” he said. “You can also add videos on top of the tour, or have a pop-up that says, ‘Make a Reservation,’ and link it right to Open Table.”

Tun said his target market is more visitors than locals, although I found a lot of interesting things to browse on HawaiiHolo, including a tour of the former International Marketplace in Waikiki.

To check out the gallery of 360-degree tours, visit HawaiiHolo.com, or connect with the site on Facebook, follow @HawaiiHolo on Twitter, or follow HawaiiHolo on Google+. To learn more about Tun’s other business photography services, visit HawaiiBusinessPhoto.com.

You can listen to our interview with Tun here:

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