Google Maps keeps growing up. Already one of the most popular tools on anyone’s smartphone, the navigation app has successfully mapped 220 countries, and helped 1 billion users find their way around. Recently, Google has begun automatically adding new businesses, addresses, and places of interest, and giving users information about whether or not their favorite local haunts are open, and how long the wait time might be. But at Google I/O, the company gave us a sneak peek at what is to come from Google Maps, and no matter how nonexistent your sense of direction might be, Google can help.
Perhaps the most useful new feature Google announced at its conference is something the company is calling VPS, or visual positioning system. Rather than asking users to rely on that little blue dot on their screen to help orient themselves, Google is instead leveraging your smartphone camera to help you determine exactly where you are. In the not so distant future, once you’re in Google Maps, you should be able to point your camera at a street or at a building, and not only be told exactly what you’re looking at, but which way to turn in order to reach your final destination. That means your days of walking half a block in one direction before turning around and walking the other way could soon be behind you.
This new feature combines computer vision with street view, and may also incorporate some fun augmented reality — for example, Google is toying with the idea of adding a friendly animal guide to lead you to your point of interest.
And it’s not just navigation that Maps is improving. Rather, the app is becoming an increasingly social experience. You will soon find a new tab in Google Maps called “For You” that is designed to tell you what you need to know about the places you care about. When a new business opens in your area, you’ll be notified, and also receive a recommendation as to whether or not you might enjoy the experience. Google is not only offering a list of trending destinations in a community but is also debuting a new feature called Match Score. This, the company says, helps you differentiate among all those four-star rated restaurants and pick the one you are most likely to enjoy.
“We use machine learning to generate this number, based on a few factors: What we know about a business, the food and drink preferences you’ve selected in Google Maps, places you’ve been to, and whether you’ve rated a restaurant or added it to a list,” Google explains in a blog post. “Your matches change as your own tastes and preferences evolve over time — it’s like your own expert sidekick, helping you quickly assess your options and confidently make a decision.” Simply tap on a destination within Maps to see its score.
You can also better plan group activities within maps with the new Shortlist function. Just long-press on a place you’re interested in visiting with your friends in order to add it to a shareable shortlist. When you’re ready to send it off to your friends and family members, recipients can either vote on their favorites or add more choices to the mix. And of course, once a decision has been made, you can use Google Maps to secure a reservation and book a ride.
These features should begin rolling out globally on both Android and iOS in the coming months.
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