Google has formally announced (after piloting last year) a project to offer businesses such as hotels free panoramic views of their properties on Google Places.
Google Business Photos is the official extension of a test from early in 2010 where Google officials will come into a business and take pictures, eventually after processing including the images on the relevant entry on Google Places.
The idea is to bolster businesses on Google Places with professional photography alongside the owner-generated images also possible on the service.
Here the Millenium Hilton Hotel in New York show the owner image, Google Map and shot from Streetview. The pro images will presumably sit alongside the user generated snaps after processing.
So keen is Google to boost the content on the Google Places pages that is sending an army of photographers around the world to snap the businesses on their behalf, for free.
Google says it is taking panoramic shots which "may be stitched together into a panoramic view" - think Streetview for inside a property (similar - but far less complex - to the recent museum Streetview project).
The free photography is being introduced to major cities in six countries around the world (US, UK, France, Australia, South Korea, New Zealand and Japan), with businesses invited to apply online.
Given the cost of professional photographers these days, enthusiasm from hotels might see Google's project taking quite a long time to spread far and wide (and costly for the search giant)...
Another reason for the project could, of course, be simply to remind hotels that they have the opportunity to upload their own picture to Google Places.
Here is the obligatory cute video (from October last year when the project was being tested):