Imagine you’re planning a vacation in South Baldwin County and want to bring your boat. How convenient would it be if you could take a Google tour via those same waterways to see what’s in store?
Come early June, residents and visitors alike will be able to do just that.
“From a boater’s standpoint, to see where you’re headed before you get there by the Google Waterway View is incredible,” Orange Beach Councilman Jeff Boyd said. “We’re proud to be a part of it.”
On May 1 Bill Hilker of PlacesMobile, an independent contractor on Google special projects, took to the waterways in South Baldwin County to document only the second Google Waterway View map in the U.S.
“They will really be able to get a firsthand look, a 360-degree visual, virtual tour of the area,” Hilker said. “They can look at 360-degree still images or they can just push play and watch the 360-degree video on their phone. It could also interface with virtual-reality headsets if they are in a tourism office.”
Hilker and Capt. Eddie Jordan of E.P.I.C. cruises spent the day mapping from the Flora-Bama on Ole River through the Intracoastal Waterway to Mobile Bay. That afternoon they met with several of the project’s sponsors at Happy Harbor Marina in Orange Beach to announce filming had ended.
“This has been such a great project,” Hilker said. “We reached out to the Coastal Alabama Business Chamber way back in the fall and introduced the idea. We started this about a year ago in South Florida and that was our pilot project. I said there’s no better place to bring this for the second one than Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama.
An image from the project in Miami is above.
“We’ve been working on this a long time to get to this day and to get the filming of the Waterway View done. It went flawlessly.”
Chamber Vice President Sharon Wiese took the opportunity to announce a new smartphone app incorporating the video and dozens of other Google walkthroughs at area businesses, also produced by Hilker.
“We are launching a new and improved shopping, dining and attraction guide,” Wiese said. “It will offer virtual walk-through tours of businesses, places of interest and the Intracoastal Waterway. All boating, marinas, dining, shopping, family activities and attractions will be able to directly connect with our visitors as well as our locals.”
Also included on the app, Wiese said, are virtual tours of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach city facilities and sports venues.
Chamber President and CEO Greg Alexander said the Google Waterway View and new app will give businesses in the area a new outlet to market their services.
“It will be a significant impact within our community and businesses,” Alexander said. “We realize what a powerful economic development tool it will be as it showcases our area allowing our visitors and residents alike to view our intercoastal waterways and virtually walk into our businesses from anywhere in the world.”
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