Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

The most exciting Google Maps trick now delivers a must-have feature for managing the coronavirus

Updated Oct 16th, 2020 7:47AM EDT
Google Maps Features
Image: blackzheep/Adobe

If you buy through a BGR link, we may earn an affiliate commission, helping support our expert product labs.

  • Google significantly upgraded the way it displays busyness information about places in Google Maps to provide more accurate data about crowdedness.
  • Google Maps will tell users how busy a place is likely to be, showing the information prominently on the map and in the directions panel.
  • The busyness information will also be included in the Live View AR experience, providing instant information about stores and restaurants that should help with social distancing precautions.

From the first months of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Google brought several new features to its most important products to help people manage these tough times. Google set up a COVID-19 resource information, gave COVID-19 coverage prominent placement inside News and YouTube, and updated Google Maps regularly with features meant to help people navigate the pandemic. Google Maps allowed store owners to update their listings with accurate information during lockdowns and offered warnings when users started looking for doctors. The app also started highlighting restaurants that deliver food at the time. Google also used location information to show whether communities were respecting lockdown measures. More recently, it added a new layer to Maps that offers information at-a-glance about the infectivity rate of a region and the trend so that people can alter travel plans in real-time.

This brings us to what might be one of the most important coronavirus-related changes Google made to Maps. And one of the best things about it is that it’ll work inside Google’s most exciting trick for Google Maps so far, Live View.

Announced only last year, Live View is an augmented reality (AR) layer that displays Maps information over the live imagery the phone’s camera capture. That’s the future of Maps navigation that will probably be available on AR devices soon. Google updated Live View only a few weeks ago, bringing more information to the AR mode of Maps to help you navigate your surroundings better. One of the coolest new Live View features concerns navigation experiences that include a combination of public transportation methods. Live View will now show you which way to head next after you exit the subway or the bus to get to your next connection.

Google announced on Thursday that it’s making a huge change to the way it displays busyness information in Google Maps to assist users looking to avoid gatherings and practice social distancing as much as possible. Google Maps will now show in real-time how busy a place is, allowing you to make an informed decision on whether to visit a store or postpone your journey.

Google Maps
Google Maps will display busyness information for places directly on the map. Image source: Google

People have been looking for busyness data more than ever. Google expanded the feature to cover outdoor areas as well, including beaches and parks. Essential places like grocery stores, gas stations, laundromats, and pharmacies are also covered better than before. Google says it’s on track to increase global coverage by five times compared to June 2020.

Google Maps
Google Maps will display busyness information for places in the directions panel. Image source: Google

Busyness information will be available directly on the map when browsing an area. It will surface when setting up directions to warn people about to head out that their destination might be too crowded.

Google has enlisted the help of its Assistant to update busyness information for businesses. The Duplex call technology allowed Google to call places and verify information on Maps and Search. The use of conversational technology is probably helping Google improve Duplex as well.

Google Maps
Google Maps store listings for stores will include all the anti-COVID-19 precautions a business employs. Image source: Google

Using Duplex-generated information, Google made more than 3 million updates since April, “including updated hours of operation, delivery and pickup options, and store inventory information for in-demand products such as face masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant.” These updates were then viewed more than 20 billion times.

Google Maps
Google Maps Live View demo shows real-time busyness information for businesses. Image source: Google

The information is now available in Maps and Search. You’ll be able to see exactly what sort of health precautions a business has in place, including mask requirements, plexiglass use, and temperature checks.

This information is useful when planning a trip on Android, iPhone, and desktop from home. But the same information will be available in the Live View AR mode and should help out with those spontaneous decisions to visit a place that you haven’t scouted from home. Live View will display busyness information on the map as you pan the camera. You’ll then be able to decide whether you should enter a store or restaurant or wait a while longer.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

More Tech