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I could have used this new Google Maps feature on my recent trip to Europe

Published Nov 12th, 2019 7:37PM EST
Google Maps directions
Image: Valentin Wolf/imageBROKER/Shutterstock

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Getting around and navigating your transportation options can be one of the more stressful aspects of foreign travel, especially when you’re somewhere where you don’t speak the language and have to try and convey to a taxi or Uber driver where you’re trying to go. I encountered it myself a couple of months ago with a French Uber driving trying to tell me something pretty insistently about my trip as I got into his car near my hotel in Paris’ 10th Arrondissement.

I definitely would have liked to have been able to turn to a new Google Maps feature that’s rolling out this month — a translate text-to-speech feature that will allow Google Maps to speak the text you input in the language of the country you’re in, precisely for the reason I outlined above. Perfect for when you, for example, have Google Maps open and want to convey to your driver where you’re trying to go, rather than gesture and point wordlessly at the app.

Fast Company has the rundown on the new feature, which rolls out to iOS and Android users “this month.” It will support 50 languages at the outset, with support for more coming at a later date. The magazine quotes Google Maps project manager Laszlo de Brissac explaining more about how the feature works: “Text-to-speech technology automatically detects what language your phone is using to determine which places you might need help translating. For instance, if your phone is set to English and you’re looking at a place of interest in Tokyo, you’ll see the new speaker icon next to the place’s name and address so you can get a real-time translation.”

That should make navigating directions within Google Maps while you’re in a foreign country much easier. Meantime, if you’re a heavy Google Maps user you should also start to see an unrelated new feature that also brings a bit of change to directions within the app.

It was back in April when we reported on the effort underway by Google to crank up the monetization when it comes to Google Maps, a service that more than 1 billion people rely on and which has until recently stayed relatively free of the most intrusive kinds of advertisements and brands that are shoved in your face.

As the holiday season starts to get underway, though, you’re going to start seeing an ever-so-subtle addition of promotional items into driving directions that Google Maps serves up for you. The app will start allowing branded pins for businesses (which display their logo, making them stand out in contrast to the generic location pins) to show up in the driving directions you see. They were introduced actually back in 2016 for the first time, as 9to5Google notes today, showing up first in map view.

If those businesses with branded pins are on your route, you’ll be able to add a stop to your trip and see an image encouraging you to visit. It will look like this:

Image source: Google
Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.