Google's annual I/O developer's conference always provides an exciting swathe of Google-related updates and improvements to their services and so far, it's delivering. Their key messaging this year is solving problems with AI and with the incoming upgrades to Google Maps, their advanced AI and algorithms will help you find things to do, places to eat and organise getting together with your friends.
I've almost exclusively used Maps to get from point A to point B, though occasionally I delve into it's more exploratory features - the ability to track down restaurants nearby has certainly saved me a couple of times. The updates that Google are bringing to the service look to flesh out those exploration features a little more. Here's the new features you'll find in Google Maps this year.
Google Wants To Match You With Restaurants
Maps will now display a Netflix-like "match" function that gives you a percentage likelihood that you'll enjoy a particular restaurant or venue, in addition to giving you reasons why. Google are positioning it as "your own expert sidekick" and that sounds pretty great to me, a human being who can never decide where I should go to eat or drink without first reading every review and top 10 list I can find. This takes that search out of your hands and puts it up front.
From their blog post, it basically uses algorithms and AI to determine that you're interested in particular food groups and events and then gives you a number. It's a cafe dating update. It will help me greatly.
The Explore Tab
Perhaps the most immediate and noticeable change will be to the Explore tab that occupies the bottom bar in Google Maps. The update that's rolling out over the year will still provide the current list of restaurants and cafes, should you want to eat, but also provide 'trending lists' like a Good List that uses information from experts, AI and publishers to determine what you should be doing. That's purely food-based, of course, but events will also be curated too, with start times and dates posted straight to Maps.
Another way to personalise the Maps experience aside from 'Match' is an entirely new tab that will live alongside Explore, Driving and Transit in Maps bottom bar. For You is kind of like explore, but also gives you a chance to follow particular places or restaurants and then forward you information about new places to see — again using Google's algorithm and advanced learning. It's that kind of convenient-creepy that futurists and dystopian sci-fi authors have been writing about for years.
Google also announced a group planning feature that allows you to create 'shortlists' within the app and then send that shortlist to a group of friends you're trying to plan an evening or lunch with. Once you've all voted on it, you'll be able to use Maps to book the reservation and even find a ride.
Of course, none of this helps you if you're not a Google Maps user. However, it's safe to assume that competing apps will respond to these innovations in kind. No matter which GPS app you use, things are about to get better.