Google I/O: Google Maps And Search Get Major Updates

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A major redesign of Google Maps is under way, while Google Search will ‘talk’ to users to refine their searches

Google continues to push out the product announcements at its annual developer event in California.

It revealed that Google Maps and Google Search are getting innovative updates, with Maps receiving a more interactive look, and Search gaining speech recognition capabilities that will allow users to “talk” back and forth during searches.

Map Redesign

Both upgrades were unveiled in detail at the 15 May opening session of the three-day Google I/O Developers Conference, which is being held in San Francisco’s Moscone Center.

The new Google Maps takes a new approach to how people use online and mobile maps, gaining the ability to instantly respond to user inputs, making recommendations on places to visit and highlighting information that matters most during a map inquiry, according to a 15 May post by Bernhard Seefeld, Google Maps product management director, and Yatin Chawathe, Google Maps engineering director, on the Google Lat Long Blog.

Google Maps iOS iPhone LondonThe next generation of the Maps service essentially will create a map that is unique to each user and his or her needs, based on the input from the user, according to the post. “And the more you interact with the map, the better it gets. When you set your Home and Work locations, star favourite places, write reviews and share with friends, Google Maps will build even more useful maps with recommendations for places you might enjoy,” the post states.

The idea is that Maps will now create custom maps for each user, according to Google. “In the past, such a notion would have been unbelievable: a map was just a map, and you got the same one for New York City, whether you were searching for the Empire State Building or the coffee shop down the street.”

With the new Maps features, users will also be able to uncover the best local destinations of all types, with detailed labels popping up that provide brief place descriptions and icons that highlight business categories and other useful information, such as which restaurants are recommended by your Google+ friends, wrote Seefeld and Chawathe. “Info cards provide helpful information such as business hours, and ratings and reviews so you can quickly decide where to eat, drink and play.”

The revamped Maps also feature images of destinations more prominently for users, as well as presenting improved directions and tours generated from user-submitted photos, the post states. “It’s the biggest change we’ve made to Google Maps since we launched eight years ago. The quest to build the perfect map will never be over, but we’re excited about the steps we’re taking towards building the next generation of maps.”

The coming updates for Maps were the source of rumours since earlier in May as the conference approached.

Search Changes

Meanwhile, the changes slated for Google Search are just as revolutionary, giving users the ability to verbally ask questions of Search to get answers, have conversations with users and even to provide useful information without having to be asked, according to a 15 May post by Google Senior Vice President Amit Singhal on the Google Inside Search Blog.

“Today, we previewed what this conversational experience will look like in Chrome on your desktops and laptops,” wrote Singhal. “Soon, you’ll be able to just say, hands-free, ‘OK Google, will it be sunny in Santa Cruz this weekend?’ and get a spoken answer. Then, you’ll be able to continue the conversation and just follow up with ‘how far is it from here?’ if you care about the drive or ‘how about Monterey?’ if you want to check weather somewhere else, and get Google to tell you the answer.”

Also announced at I/O was the expansion of Google’s Knowledge Graph service to provide more intelligent search using foreign languages, wrote Singhal. “And starting today, you’ll get richer answers from the Knowledge Graph if you speak Polish, Turkish, and Traditional and Simplified Chinese.”

Google Now is also gaining new capabilities, wrote Singhal, including the ability for “reminders” to be scheduled at the whim of users so they pop up when a user is in a store shopping or when they are preparing to use public transportation and need to remember the train schedule. Some of the new reminder capabilities can even be set up using voice commands.

The Google I/O conference continues through 17 May with a wide range of daily training sessions and code sessions where developers can get help with their projects, answers for code questions, and input and additional eyes on the work they are doing using Google code. More than 120 talks, ranging from introductory topics to advanced subjects about Google Maps, Android, Google Chrome, Google+, App Engine, Google Glass and more, will be featured in the technical sessions, according to Google.

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Originally published on eWeek.

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