Google is adding some new tools to help people get more information from maps, including new, AR-powered on-screen directions, and updated curbside pick-up listings for businesses.
First off, in what's the most advanced new element, Google's incorporating new on-screen directions, via AR device display, within Google Maps, which will help guide users to where they should be headed.
As you can see here, the new option will provide additional assistance in finding your way, with visual indicators of directions. Google says that this information is based on global localization, "which utilizes AI to scan tens of billions of Street View images to understand your orientation".
"If you’re catching a plane or train, Live View can help you find the nearest elevator and escalators, your gate, platform, baggage claim, check-in counters, ticket office, restrooms, ATMs and more. Arrows and accompanying directions will point you the right way. And if you need to pick something up from the mall, use Live View to see what floor a store is on and how to get there so you can get in and out in a snap."
Google's been working on these features for some time. Back in 2017, at its annual I/O conference, Google shared a preview of similar AR tools which would overlay relevant information on your view.
Facebook is also working on similar on-screen prompts as part of its Project Aria AR glasses experiment, and with Facebook and Apple reportedly close to launching their new AR glasses, it makes sense for Google to make this move now, with a view to progressing its own AR ambitions in-step.
Google, too, is also developing the next iteration of its own AR glasses (after Google Glass). Last June, Google announced that it had acquired AR glasses maker North, which had been developing new, fashionably designed smart glasses for this next stage.
At the time of its acquisition, North was on the cusp of releasing version 2.0 of its Focals product, which provides various digital overlays on the lens, enabling users to stay connected.
You can imagine that this integration with Maps would fit perfectly with this product, and with North's more fashion-conscious approach, maybe Google will see more success with its next foray into AR glasses, with the Google Glass project proving that aesthetics are indeed a key consideration in consumer take-up of such a device.
In addition to this, Google's also adding new weather and air pollution indicators to Google Maps listings.
"With the new weather layer, you can quickly see current and forecasted temperature and weather conditions in an area - so you’ll never get caught in the rain without an umbrella. And the new air quality layer shows you how healthy (or unhealthy) the air is - information that’s especially helpful if you have allergies or are in a smoggy or fire-prone area."
The additional information will be provided by The Weather Company, AirNow.gov and the Central Pollution Board, providing more context on various elements within Map displays.
Google's also looking to take in more environmental considerations, with new eco-friendly travel listings.
As you can see here, the new option will enable users to choose directions that optimize for lower fuel consumption - "based on factors like road incline and traffic congestion".
"Soon, Google Maps will default to the route with the lowest carbon footprint when it has approximately the same ETA as the fastest route. In cases where the eco-friendly route could significantly increase your ETA, we’ll let you compare the relative CO2 impact between routes so you can choose."
That will provide more capacity for users to make a more conscious decision about this element - though Google does note that users will always be able to opt for the fastest route available as well.
And finally, Google's also adding more context to curbside pickup options on business listings in both Maps and Search.
As you can see in this example, Google's adding additional pick-up and delivery information, like delivery providers, pickup and delivery windows, fees, and order minimums.
That will help potential customers make more informed choices about how they get their orders and products. Google's rolling out these new informational notes on mobile Search, starting with Instacart and Albertsons Cos. stores in the US.
These are some interesting additions, with the AR update, in particular, providing another key element in the gradual shift towards more digital integration with our day-to-day lives.
Eventually, as noted, we'll have AR glasses that will provide this context, but in order to get to that next level, updates like this will ease the transition to more advanced AR usage.
Google says that its AR Live View is live now on Android and iOS in a number of malls in Chicago, Long Island, Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco, San Jose, and Seattle.