Google Maps get personal, will start offering coupons
By Heather Kelly
(CNN) — Google Maps are getting personal. The next version of the widely used maps tool, previewed on Wednesday at the Google i/o conference in San Francisco, will soon have a different look and some splashy new features including displays of real-time accidents and personalized recommendations.
Each click subtly alters the map so it displays the most relevant information, highlighting things that are relevant specifically to the person searching and what they’re looking for. Click on a sandwich shop and a box appears showing details such as reviews from Zagat and your friends. Related eateries nearby pop up on the map.
Using your search history, reviews and network of friends, Google makes recommendations of places it thinks you will enjoy. The more you use the map, the more data it collects for these types of recommendations. Google is also adding offers for companies like Starbucks, so when you look up where the nearest coffee shop is you can stumble into a coupon for $2 off your next Frappuccino.
Navigation has always been one of Google Maps’ strong points, particularly when it comes to alternative forms of transportation like public transit and biking. A collection of navigation improvements focus on finding the best, speediest route to a destination in real time.
Not sure if you should bike, drive or take a train? Maps has a new schedule viewer that lines up all the options to help you decide. It will no longer be necessary to do a search for a start or end address, you can click on the map and instantly see the driving routes.
Car accidents will appear on the map in real time. Live updates on road conditions have been popular with drivers, as we’ve seen Waze, a popular navigation app that crowd sources road information. Google will also add dynamic rerouting, automatically finding an alternate route that avoids traffic-slowing incidents.
The redesigned Maps will let Google’s sleek-looking maps and vast library of photos shine. Text takes a back seat in this version. Images from street view, user-submitted photos and fun Google projects like underwater view and interior 3-D tours are all highlighted, while map itself fills the page.
The final, neatest new feature is also the least practical. Zoom all the way out on Google Maps and you’ll see the Earth floating in space against a backdrop of stars. The cloud cover moving over the planet, as well as the stars and sun position, are all shown as they are in real time.
Google Maps has clients that pay to use the maps data in their own products like mobile apps and websites, often designing and creating their own unique offerings. The updates, along with other under the hood improvements, will be available to these more than 1 million products that use Google Maps data over the next few months.
The new Maps is only in beta, but people interested in testing it can sign up for an invitation at google.com/maps/preview.
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