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A guide to Google Maps’ exciting upcoming improvements

A guide to Google Maps’ exciting upcoming improvements

Apart from releasing the beta version of Android P during this year’s I/O developer conference, Google also took the opportunity to present new improvements for its Google Maps service. Chief among the cool stuff is the new augmented reality feature, which should help prove that AR is not only for fun, but also for real world applications.

Of course, the new AR mode on Google Maps is not the only AR related development that Google has announced this week -- the tech giant also took the time to highlight a number of gaming features and offerings centered around its ARCore platform. But the Google Maps’ new AR feature will likely be the most talked about in the days to come.

In some ways, the new feature can be considered the next step evolution of Google’s Street View, wherein photos of real world streets, landmarks, and objects are presented to aid the user in navigating an unfamiliar location. What the Google Maps’ AR mode does is take Street View and marry it with today’s existing augmented reality technology, helped massively by the smartphone’s camera. The resulting effect is a real time navigational guide for getting to a specific location, replete with big arrows and directions, plus a half circle section that shows part of the map in order to help the user ascertain his exact position relative to streets and landmarks (as well as an estimated amount of time it will take to get to the intended destination).

Syncing the real world with the augmented reality being shown on the smartphone’s display is definitely easier said than done. It goes without saying that Google Maps’ AR mode concept will have to go through the usual polishing and fine tuning, but Google has more or less demonstrated that it can be done. More importantly, the technology can only improve from here on.

Google Maps also has a new functionality that should allow users to text their family or friends their estimated time of arrival (ETA). This feature would be particularly handy for concerned parents wondering if their kid has come home yet, or for overzealous buddies wondering why their star player has not arrived for Thursday Trivia Night yet.

Also, Google Maps is introducing a new For You tab, which offers information to users about trends and events happening in a specific location. Then there is the Your Match score, which uses AI to collate the user’s ratings, travel history, and interests regarding a location, and combines it with Google’s own search capabilities. Lastly, Google Maps now lets users make a shortlist just by long pressing on locations or specific business establishments, and then share that list with family and friends (the recipients can then vote on those places in real time).