Google Maps is an indispensable app that is used by millions of people on a daily basis to get up-to-the-minute commute times, get turn-by-turn directions, or discover new restaurants or shops nearby whether you're exploring your own neighborhood or traveling in a new city.
At Google I/O 2018, Google announced some pretty cool features designed to make Google Maps more assistive and personal, so you can spend less time staring at your phone searching for a place to get food or drinks and more time enjoying the best spots in town, and also showcased some new integrations between Google Maps and your phone's camera.
These features will be rolling out to Google Maps for both Android and iOS over the coming months.
What was announced with Google Maps at I/O 2018?
Google Maps is going to be getting much more personal, with Google using the power of machine learning to better predict places you should love based on everything it knows about the businesses (a lot), and what it knows about your own preferences (a lot, and constantly growing).
These features will be rolling out as part of a redesigned app that will include a refocused Explore tab designed to be better at curating options and personalizing recommendations, better tools for making plans with friends, and a new hyper-personal "For you" tab that's designed to keep you in the know about what's going on in your favorite stomping grounds — whether it's your neighbourhood or a destination half-way around the world.
A redesigned Explore tab
Most of the upgraded features presented at the keynote will exist in the newly redesigned "Explore" tab of the app. If you've been strictly using Google Maps for directions, Google is hoping these new features will entice you to use the Explore tab to discover hip new places to grab a bite to eat, learn about upcoming events in your area, and other activities going on that you might not be aware of.
The tab includes curated lists of trendy coffee shops and restaurants, and you'll also be able to cross off the restaurants you've tried so that you can keep track of the places you've been and the places that you've yet to hit up.
Predicting which restaurants are the right match for you
Another cool feature being added to Google Maps is called "Your Match" which should let you know at a glance whether Google thinks you'll enjoy a specific restaurant or business.
This feature uses machine learning to take what it knows about a business (their location, pricing, hours, user review data etc.) and what it knows about your food and drink preferences, where you've visited in the past, and your own personal ratings and favorite restaurants.
The algorithms are designed to evolve and change over time as more personal data is fed into the system. The result is a "Your Match" percentage (similar to what Netflix uses for its recommendation algorithm) that should give you a decent idea which new restaurants to check out and which you should avoid based on what Google knows about your personal preferences.
Better ways to make plans with friends
It can be really hard for a big group of people to settle on plans — everyone has their own ideas of what's best and it can be really hard to organize and coordinate.
Google is adding a new way to quickly create a shareable shortlist of locations from right within Google Maps, so you can generate a list of options for the evening, share it with your friends, and have everyone vote on where they'd like to go. While scrolling through your list of restaurants, you'll be able to long-press on a location to add it to the list, which can then be shared to a group of friends.
Once the group has made a decision, you can use Google Maps to book a reservation, set up rides via Uber, and be on your way.
A new tab that's just "For You"
Following on the trend of personalization, Google Maps will soon include a "For You" tab that's designed to let you follow what's going on in the areas you live, work, and play in most often.
You'll be able to follow specific cities and neighborhoods that you frequent and get the latest news and information about cool new spots popping up, restaurants that you've been meaning to check out. From there, you'll see the "Your Match" information and also be able to do the long-press trick to start a short list to plan an outing with friends.
It's all about personalizing your experience using Google Maps with AI and machine learning to give you better predictions about the places and restaurants you deserve to know about.
Get relevant information about your surroundings when using your camera
While it's not directly related to improvements to the Google Maps app itself, one of the coolest new features Google showed off was the ability to overlay information from Google Maps right on your camera using a mix of machine learning and augmented reality.
This seems like a game-changing feature for tourists trying to navigate a foreign city as the system will use Vision Positioning System along with data from Google Street View to determine what your camera is pointed at, and then overlay relevant information overtop — whether that's arrows pointing you down the right street towards your destination, or relevant information about that restaurant you're curious about.
When will the new Google maps features be available?
Google has announced that this update will be coming to both Android and iOS versions of Google Maps in the coming months.