Google continued its AI push on Wednesday, announcing several interesting features across various apps in its portfolio. Google Maps is one of the key Google apps that can benefit from smarter AI, and Google just announced three big feature additions. While one of them is the expansion of Immersive View, the other two are even more exciting. In fact, they will change the way I use the app on my iPhone and Mac. The new features I’m referring to are glanceable directions for mobile devices and a new history view for desktops.
That’s not to say the Immersive View update isn’t as exciting. Google uses AI to fuse billions of aerial images and create three-dimensional views of the world. The result is a brand new way to explore tourist attractions worldwide before you even get there.
Immersive View lets you see the neighborhood, spot nearby restaurants, and check out a specific location in various weather and traffic conditions. Google is now expanding the feature to more than 500 landmarks around the world. The list includes four new cities: Amsterdam, Dublin, Florence, and Venice. But it’ll be a while until every corner of Google Maps gets Immersive View coverage.
How glanceable directions work
More interesting and useful to me is the release of glanceable directions.
This is another feature we knew Google was working on. With glanceable directions, you get real-time navigation on your lock screen or in the route overview. This is a feature that was previously available only after starting the navigation process.
I don’t just run more than I used to during the pandemic. I also walk a lot more. And sometimes, I need options for getting from point A to B, even in my hometown which I know well. I often use Google Maps on my iPhone for that, without starting the navigation process.
I’d just enter the destination and then keep checking the screen to see whether I’m where I’m supposed to be. Glanceable directions will make this process even easier.
The feature will be available globally this month for walking, cycling, and driving. It’ll come to Android as well, not just iPhone, of course.
Google does say you have to opt-in to get the feature, which means that, yes, your location will be shared with Google at all times. But sharing your location is the only way for navigation apps to work.
Google Maps Recents on desktop
The third AI-enhanced Google Maps feature that Google announced on Wednesday is a new “Recents” option for the desktop experience.
Like many other people, I often plan future travel via Google Maps on my desktop computer or laptop. I need the larger screen to get a better view of everything. Recents will make that experience even better by automatically organizing places you’ve researched. Those attractions will appear on the side of the screen, letting you plan trips to any of them quickly and easily.
You can incorporate more than one saved place in future trips, and Google will create routes that hit all those objectives.
Google Maps Recents will also let you share places with friends, which should make travel and/or meeting plans easier.
Also, the Recents places will be available every time you get back to Google Maps on Mac or PC.
Google Maps Recents will be rolling out globally next month.