Google Maps has been updated with a new feature called Immersive View in five cities — London, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Tokyo. The search giant expects to roll the feature out to more cities, including Amsterdam, Dublin, Florence and Venice, in the future. It is intended to help you plan ahead of time and gain a better understanding of a city before visiting it. The feature combines billions of Street Views and aerial images to generate a virtual world model. It also overlays data on top of the digital model, such as weather, traffic, and also how busy a location is, according to the company.
In a blog post, Google says that the immersive mode for Google Maps uses advanced artificial intelligence (AI) elements and computer vision to build a digital view of the world.
The company shares an example of a visit to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, stating that users can "virtually soar over the building" which identifies where the entrances are. They can also look at the weather and visuals of the venue — including crowds — using a time slider. The feature also displays nearby restaurants — including a look at the interiors, just like Google Maps' regular Street View feature.
Google says it uses neural radiance fields (NeRF), an advanced AI technique that converts ordinary images into 3D representations, to create these realistic scenes. Google Maps can therefore "accurately recreate the full context of a place" using NeRF, along with its lighting, material texture, and what's in the background. All of this allows users to determine whether a bar's moody lighting is appropriate for a date night or whether the views at a cafe make it ideal for lunch with friends.
The post also talks about “Search with Live View” which uses AI and augmented reality to help locate useful things around users such as ATMs, restaurants, parks, restrooms, lounges, taxi stands, car rentals and transit stations. According to Google, users can lift their phone to see helpful information about places such as operational timings, how crowded is, and user ratings for the venue.
Live View was launched in London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris, San Francisco and Tokyo. Google says the feature will be expanded to over 1,000 new airports, train stations, and malls in several cities — Barcelona, Berlin, Frankfurt, London, Madrid, Melbourne, Paris, Prague, São Paulo, Singapore, Sydney, and Taipei — in the coming months.
Electric vehicles that have Android Auto built-in will also receive some helpful updates. Maps will recommend the best charging stop based on factors such as current traffic, your charge level, and expected energy consumption on any trip that will require a charging stop. The 'very fast' charging filter will assist you in quickly locating stations with chargers of 150 kilowatts or higher. This can provide enough power for many cars to fill up and return to the road in less than 40 minutes. Maps will also show you charging stations in search results when places like a supermarket have them.
Google said it will also introduce glanceable directions to Maps. Users can track their trip with glanceable directions right from the route overview or lock screen. This feature will show updated ETAs and directions to the next turn, which were previously only visible by unlocking your phone, opening the app, and using detailed navigation mode. If the user changes the route, Maps will automatically update the itinerary. In the coming months, these glanceable directions will be available globally on Android and iOS, and they will also be compatible with Live Activities on iOS 16.1.
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