Tech News : Google Maps Gets AI Boost

Google has announced that it is trying out generative AI within Google Maps as a way for users to discover new places based on their questions.

How? 

What Google means is that if users, for example, are visiting a town or city, they can simply tell Google Maps what they’re looking for and AI will find it. Google’s large-language models (LLMs) analyse the information in Maps and then make suggestions for where to go based on the user’s question. Google says that the ability to suggest places on the fly using generative AI will benefit users if they are “feeling spontaneous or need to change your plans suddenly.” 

Example 

The US-based example given by Google about how it works is: “Let’s say you’re visiting San Francisco and want to plan a few hours of thrifting for unique vintage finds. Just ask Maps what you’re looking for, like ‘places with a vintage vibe in SF.’ Our AI models will analyse Maps’ rich information about nearby businesses and places along with photos, ratings, and reviews from the Maps community to give you trustworthy suggestions.” 

Google says the results are displayed in “helpful categories” 

Experiment – Local Guides First 

Google says that adding generative AI Maps is at the “early access experiment” stage and it is currently being tested in the US among “select Local Guides” (members of its Maps community who give feedback on new Maps products and updates).

Search Updated In October 

This latest “supercharging Maps with generative AI” is the next step onwards from the addition of generative AI to Search in Maps back in October last year. That change meant that the generative AI overlayed photos of what users were looking for on the map. The photos (such as food or realistic pictures of buildings) came from photos shared by users and advanced image recognition models.

Other features introduced at the time also included information about charging stations on routes for EV drivers (Android and iOS) and, in the US, the addition of Lens in Maps. Previously known as Search with Live View, Lens uses AI and AR to show where there are nearby ATMs, restaurants, and more.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

Google says the addition of generative AI to Maps is “just the beginning” and it certainly provides incredible scope for adding more layers of value and augmentation of the Maps product.

Google, like Microsoft, has invested heaviy in AI and in December it introduced its “Gemini” model which it described as the “most capable and general model we’ve ever built” and which can understand, operate across, and combine different types of information including text, code, audio, image, and video. Also, like Microsoft, Google is keen to get its generative AI both incorporated into (and adding value to) its suite of products and, crucially, monetise it by packaging it into new products like Gemini Pro and Gemini Ultra.

The AI “supercharged” Maps is likely to provide more new opportunities for Google to expand its advertising revenue. It also highlights the importance, particularly for businesses with premises that attract customers in the local area (e.g., restaurants and shops) of getting plenty of good reviews on their Google business profile. It also shows the importance of keeping this (and their website) up to date with their latest products and services, perhaps making sure they’re mentioned in their reviews so that AI can select their business when a person asks the AI in Maps for a specific product/service in the area. Google is, therefore, using AI to retain and re-engage businesses with its products.

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