Google Maps is getting an AI-boosted upgrade to be an even better navigation assistant and your personal tour guide

It looks like Google is going all-in on artificial intelligence (AI), and following the rebranding of its generative AI chatbot from Bard to Gemini, it’s now bringing generative AI recommendations to Google Maps.

The AI-aided recommendations will help Google Maps perform even better searches for a variety of destinations, and the feature is also supposedly able to function as an advisor that can offer insights and tips about things like location, budgets, and the weather. Once the feature is enabled, it can be accessed through the search function, much like existing Google Maps features. Currently, it’s only available for US users, but hopefully, it will roll out worldwide very soon. 

This upgrade of Google Maps is the latest move in Google’s ramped-up AI push, which has seen developments like AI functionality integrated into Google Workspace apps. We’ve also had hints before that AI features and functions were coming to Google Maps – such as an improved Local Guides feature. Local Guides is intended to synthesize local knowledge and experiences and share them with users to help them discover new places.

What we know about how this feature works

Android Police got a first look at how users were introduced to the new AI-powered recommendations feature. A reader got in touch with the website and explained how they were given an option to Search with generative AI in their Google Maps search bar. When selected, it opened up a page that detailed how the new feature makes use of generative AI to provide you with recommendations in a short onboarding exercise. Tapping Continue opens up the next page that provides users with a list of suggested queries like nearby attractions they can go to kill time or good local restaurants.

Similarly to ChatGPT, Google Maps apparently also includes tips toward the bottom of that page to help you improve your search results. Users can add more details to finetune their search like their budget, a place or area they might have in mind, and what the weather looks like when they’re planning to go somewhere. If you select one of these suggested queries, Google Maps will then explain how it would go through the process of selecting specific businesses and locations to recommend.

When the user doesn’t specify an area or region, Google Maps resorts to using the user’s current location. However, if you’d like to localize your results to an area (whether you’re there or not), you’ll have to mention that in your search.

After users try the feature for the first time and go through the short onboarding in Maps, they can access it instantly through the search menu. According to Android Police, Search with generative AI will appear below the horizontal menu that lists your saved location such as Home, Work, and so on.

A promising feature with plenty of potential

Again, this feature is currently restricted to people in the US, but we hope it’ll open up to users in other regions very soon. Along with AI recommendations, Google Maps is also getting a user interface redesign aimed at upgrading the user experience.

While I get that some users might be getting annoyed or overwhelmed with generative AI being injected into every part of our digital lives, this is one app I'd like to try when equipped with AI. Also, Google is very savvy when it comes to improving the user experience of its apps, and I’m keen to see how this feature’s introduction plays out.

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Google Maps could become smarter than ever thanks to generative AI

Google Maps is getting a dose of generative AI to let users search and find places in a more conversational manner, and serve up useful and interesting suggestions. 

This smart AI tech comes in the form of an “Ask about” user interface where people can ask Google Maps questions like where to find “places with a vintage vibe” in San Francisco. That will prompt AI to analyze information, like photos, ratings and reviews, about nearby businesses and places to serve up suggestions related to the question being asked.  

From this example, Google said the AI tech served up vinyl record stores, clothing stores, and flea markets in its suggestions. These included the location along with its rating, reviews, number of times rated, and distance by car. The AI then provides review summaries that highlight why a place might be of interest. 

You can then ask follow-up questions that remember your previous query, using that for context on your next search. For example, when asked, “How about lunch?” the AI will take into account the “vintage vibe” comment from the previous prompt and use that to offer an old-school diner nearby.

Screengrabs of the new generative AI features on Google Maps showing searches and suggestions

(Image credit: Google)

You can save the suggestions or share them, helping you coordinate with friends who might all have different preferences like being vegan, checking if a venue is dog friendly, making sure it is indoors, and so on.

By tapping into the search giant’s large-language models, Google Maps can analyze detailed information using data from more than 250 million locations, and photos, ratings and reviews from its community of over 300 million contributors to provide “trustworthy” suggestions. 

The experimental feature is launching this week but is only coming to “select Local Guides” in the US. It will use these members' insights and feedback to develop and test the feature before what’s likely to be its eventual full rollout, which Google has not provided a date for.

 Does anyone want this?  

Users on the Android subreddit were very critical of the feature with some referring to AI as a buzzword that big companies are chasing for clout, user lohet stated: “Generative AI doesn't have any place in a basic database search. There's nothing to generate. It's either there or it's not.”

Many said they would rather see Google improve offline Maps and its location-sharing features. User, chronocapybara summarized the feelings of others in the forum by saying:  “If it helps find me things I'm searching for, I'm all for it. If it offloads work to the cloud, making search slower, just to give me more promoted places that are basically ads, then no.” 

However, AI integration in our everyday apps is here to stay and its inclusion in Google Maps could lead to users being able to discover brand-new places easily and helping smaller businesses gain attention and find an audience.

Until the features roll out, you can make the most of Google Maps with our 10 things you didn't know Google Maps could do

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Don’t panic, iPhone users – Google Maps is still bringing Live Activities to your lock screen

Google announced around this time last year that it was working on the addition of Live Activities support to the Google Maps app for iPhone and iPads, and slated it for release later in 2023, but so far it still hasn’t been released. However, new assets found in the latest version in the app indicate that Google is still working on this feature, and the wait may soon be over.

The feature will display turn-by-turn directions on the Lock Screen and in the Dynamic Island of iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 15 series handsets, providing users with real-time ETAs, directions for driving, biking, walking, public transit, and more kinds of navigation. Users can look forward to all of that in easy-to-read live notifications without having to unlock their phones and opening the app. 

I wonder if this feature will also be present on iPhone 16 and iPhone 16 Pro models’ Dynamic Islands, and would assume this would become standard for future iPhone models. It would also be nice to see a similar feature for Android devices (Dynamic Islands is a feature that’s exclusive to modern iPhones). 

Young woman using smartphone in Sydney

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A sign to keep your hopes up

A contributor at MacRumors, Aaron Perris, looked into the app’s assets after its most recent update, and found signs that users can remain hopeful that Google hasn’t given up adding these features to Google Maps on iPhone, despite the delay. 

This is reassuring, as while the new features were still in development as of August of last year, after that there were no strong indications that Google was pushing forward with it until now. MacRumours says that this recent discovery suggests that we might see the new feature soon. 

Apple has also opened up the Live Activities API for third-party iPhone app developers in iOS 16.1’s release. Developers have since made some handy apps and added some useful support features to existing apps, like DoorDash and United Airlines, thanks to the Live Activities API.

As an Android device user, I’m pretty jealous – this sounds like an awesome feature that makes it easier to get up and go, and stay on the move. It will make commuting with the help of your iPhone safer and more convenient, as well. I understand why iPhone users might be getting antsy after such a long delay and limited communication from Google, but it’s worth it for the Google Maps team to get it right.

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Google Maps update to let you wipe out past searches and photos in one swoop

Google Maps is getting a privacy update that gives users new ways to control their information on the platform. 

First, the app will begin collecting your recent activity into one central location where you can view places you’ve been to in the past, the date you went there, and the amount of time you spent visiting. You’ll be even able to “delete your searches, directions… and shares” in the same hub.

Looking at Google’s announcement, it appears you can delete each entry one by one or the whole thing altogether. A window will pop up on the screen letting you know what’s going to be thrown out. The data packet will include photos, reviews, feedback reports, saved lists, and more you’ve made about a location.

Tapping the blue dot on Google Maps will now bring up a settings menu for the Timeline and Location History features where you can see if either tool has been turned on as well as if the app has access to your device’s location. Timeline, if you’re not super familiar with it, uses data obtained from Location History to keep a record of all the places you’ve been to.

The deletion tool and the blue dot menu will start rolling out to Android and iOS phones over the coming weeks.

Saving the timeline

There is another update; however, it won’t come out until sometime next year. The upcoming feature allows people to save their Timeline recording directly onto their device instead of leaving it up on Google’s cloud. You are, of course, able to delete a part or all of your information at once, if you don’t want to leave a trace behind. Conversely, users can back up their data to the company servers at any time. Everything is encrypted, so no one, not even Google, can take a peek.

Location History is getting a small tweak. Its auto-delete function “will be set to three months by default” rather than 18 months as is currently the case. After that time passes, all saved information will be deleted. If you want to go back to the longer period, you can adjust at any time. 

It’s unknown exactly when the Timeline changes will roll out to Android or iOS in 2024, although Google states you will receive an account notification when it eventually arrives.

Google Maps is full of neat little tricks that most people are unaware of. If you want to know what they are, check out TechRadar's list of the 10 things you didn't know Google Maps could do.

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Google Maps just made it a lot easier to plan holiday trips with better travel tools

With the holiday season just over the horizon, Google Maps is receiving an update to make planning and traveling around these hectic times more manageable.

The patch consists of three new features. First, the app will gain updated “transit directions” that’ll tell you “the best route to your destination based on key factors”. This includes the overall length of the trip, estimated time of arrival, plus the number of transfers you’ll have to take in order to get there. It’ll even be possible to customize the route using filters telling Google Maps to focus on a specific type of transit, like subways, or if you want one with minimal walking. 

Additionally, the app will tell where you can find the entrances and exits to stations “in over 80 cities around the world,” including Boston, London, New York City, Sydney, and Toronto. It'll point out “what side of the street they're on” as well as if there is a “clear walking route”.

Newfound collaboration

Next, the collaborative list tool will allow invited users to vote on an activity via emoji reactions. You can choose between a heart, a smiley face, a flame, or a flying stack of cash if you’re interested in going. For those who aren’t, a thumbs-down icon will be available.

Speaking of which, people can also react to publicly posted photographs on Google Maps with an emoji. The company states that “in some cases” you’ll be given the opportunity to use mashup reactions via Emoji Kitchen. The emoji mashup selections seem to depend on what the app’s AI sees in an image. For example, if it detects a bagel, the mashup will include the food item, and potentially, the yummy face. These custom-made icons will automatically be generated.

Everything you see here will be rolling out globally to Android and iOS devices starting today. The rest of the announcement consists of the tech giant shouting out certain Google Maps tools that you can use to help “navigate the holidays” like finding nearby charging stations for electric vehicles or purchasing train tickets right on the app.

If you’re interested in what else it can do, check out TechRadar’s list of the 10 things you didn’t know Google Maps could do

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Google Maps now looks more like Apple Maps – and a lot of people aren’t happy

Google Maps has had a rejig of the colors used to denote different elements, and a significant portion of its regular users aren't happy about the change.

As you may have seen, this change in color palette was first spotted back in September, but now it’s widely rolling out to users of Google’s navigation app.

Google Maps now has gray roads like Apple, rather than white or yellow roads as before, and forests are a darker green. On the other hand, the shade of blue used for water is lighter.

However, the active route is a much darker blue, with alternate routes shown in lighter blue (these used to be gray).

See the pic above for a comparison of the old (left) and new (right) design, and the one below (in the tweet) for another look at the freshly revamped colors.

These may not sound like massive changes – and to be fair, they aren’t, they’re essentially tweaks. But they have rubbed a number of users up the wrong way. As Android Authority points out, there’s some quite spicy feedback on the new Google Maps on Reddit, X (formerly Twitter) and other online forums.


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Analysis: Lacking clarity?

Some of this is unfamiliarity, as no one likes change, and it takes time to acclimatize to a new look – but there are some consistent and well-observed pieces of feedback on the redeployment of colors for Google Maps.

One common thread is criticism of the new colors lacking clarity, and making it trickier to see what’s what at a glance (and when driving obviously you will just be glancing at the display).

As one Redditor put it: “I’m finding it a little hard to read as quickly as I used to. The toned down look is cute but not practical.”

Another problem highlighted by multiple users on Reddit is that the new alternate routes being blue – as well as the main route, albeit that’s a darker blue – is an issue. It can be difficult to tell those routes apart on a phone at a bit of a distance (and with other potential factors thrown into the mix like sun glare).

Overall, Google may want to have a rethink, particularly around the alternate routes. That said, not everyone is unhappy with the changes, but the majority seem to be at least according to a poll Android Authority is running.

This shows that 44% of respondents don’t like the new colors, compared to 28% who do (with the rest abstaining). So, that doesn’t look great for Google, though of course, it’s a limited sample of around 800 people (at the time of writing).

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Google Maps could soon be getting its own AI chatbot

Google hasn't been shy about pushing artificial intelligence into its various apps and services, and it seems that the venerable Google Maps could be next in line to get an integrated AI chatbot of its own.

Code hidden in the latest beta version of Google Maps for Android, as spotted by Android Authority, makes various mentions of in-app conversations – including the line “you're talking with a chatbot”, which sort of gives the game away.

However, only a few strings of related code have been spotted so far, so we don't have too much more information about this chatbot in terms of what form it will take, what it's designed to do, and how it will integrate with the rest of Google Maps.

Nothing is certain yet, and of course Google could easily change its mind about the Maps chatbot – but given the company's focus on AI these last few months, we wouldn't be surprised to see this new feature arriving in the app very soon.

Getting chatty

Without any official word from Google, we're left to speculate what an AI chatbot in Google Maps might do. As Android Authority points out, it could well be something to do with submitting reviews and comments to Google Maps, perhaps via the Local Guides program.

The line of code that says “thank you for your contribution” certainly backs that up. Perhaps a chatbot might swing into action when you've visited a place, asking what your experience was like or what you thought of the service.

Another possibility is that the upcoming bot will actually give you travel advice: what to see in a particular area, where the best places to stay are, and so on. This would be similar to the advice that Google Bard (now with Google Maps integration) can already give.

AI chatbots might also be used to field questions from Google Maps users to businesses – questions about opening hours and facilities, for example. Right now, these questions can be posted and answered by humans, but AI might be about to step in.

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Microsoft drops Windows Maps, TV and Movies apps from new Windows 11 installs – here’s what it means for users

Microsoft seems to have scrubbed Windows Maps and Movies & TV apps from fresh installations of Windows 11, starting with Windows 11 Build 25987, which was released to Windows Insiders, a Microsoft’s official community for Windows enthusiasts and industry professionals to try out previews of new versions of Windows and features.

To be clear, if you’re using a previous version of Windows 11, you won’t be affected by this even if you upgrade to Windows 11 Build 25897. Your Windows Maps and Movies & TV apps will continue to be on your device. Also, Microsoft reportedly hasn’t given any indication that these apps are being killed off, as you can still get them from the Microsoft Store, and they will continue to be updated. 

What it does mean is that if you perform a clean install of Windows 11 going forward from today, those two apps will not be pre-installed. Microsoft has confirmed all of the above in a Windows Insider Blog post, but has not elaborated on why it’s made this decision. NeoWin points out that you can delete them if you like, and doing so frees up only a few megabytes of disk memory. It’s hard to say at this point what the fate of these two apps will be, considering that they’re rarely updated and that Microsoft recently removed offline support for Windows Maps. 

Windows Movies and TV

(Image credit: Microsoft)

What's the impact of this move?

Most Windows users may not even be aware of these apps, so they will probably not be sorely missed by those that do a clean installation of Windows 11 from now on. 

It does, however, look like Microsoft is taking steps to optimize and streamline the Windows 11 operating system in general. In the most recent major version update, Windows 11 23H2, we saw the Chat removed and its functionality be absorbed into the free version of Microsoft Teams. We also saw the removal of the old Mail app. 

These are more minor changes, in my opinion, but attention to detail like this can pay off as Windows has sometimes had the reputation of being a rather cluttered and bloated operating system, especially compared to macOS and ChromeOS. I think this bodes well for the type of operating system Microsoft is trying to turn Windows 11 into, especially with the new intense focus on AI with Windows Copilot and hybrid computing

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Google Maps gets a big AI update – here are the 5 best time-saving features

Google has been busy injecting AI-powered features into all of its services this year, and some of the most promising are in Google Maps. Well, this week those features – including the long-awaited Immersive View for Routes – are going to start rolling out on your Android or iOS phone, alongside some new tricks.

The biggest news is the rollout of Immersive View for Routes in 15 cities, starting this week. The feature combines Street view, aerial imagery, and live information like weather and traffic to give you an aerial, photo-realistic preview of your planned Google Maps route – so we're excited to take it for a spin soon.

Google's machine learning algorithms are also improving other parts of the Google Maps experience, including its Search function and the AR-powered 'Lens in Maps' feature, which overlays useful labels on buildings you're pointing at with your phone's camera.

In short, whether you're a lost pedestrian or an electric car driver, Google Maps is about to get even more useful. Here are the five main AI-powered updates that are coming and when they're expected to roll out.

1. Immersive View for Routes is finally rolling out

  • Rolling out this week on Android and iOS in 15 cities

Google Maps' Immersive View has had a frustratingly slow rollout since it was announced back in May 2022, but the feature is starting to become more widely available – and the more recent Immersive View for Routes will be rolling out on Android and iOS in 15 cities this week.

If you haven't tried it, Immersive View combines Street View, satellite, and live data to create a real-time aerial view of famous landmarks in supported cities. In May, Google announced Immersive View for Routes, which gives you the same impressive visuals for any routes that you're planning, making it much more useful.

Well, this week the feature is finally rolling out in the 15 cities Google mentioned back in May: Amsterdam, Barcelona, Dublin, Florence, Las Vegas, London, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Paris, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Tokyo and Venice.

Two phone screens on a blue background showing Google Maps Immersive View

(Image credit: Google)

It isn't yet clear if this will be available for every route you plan in Google Maps in those cities, or select parts of the city. But to use it, all you'll need to do is tap the Immersive View for Routes card in the bottom-left corner of any route you have planned in the Maps app. 

With simulated weather and traffic conditions (the latter being predicted based on historical data) overlaid on top of the 3D view, it should give you a good idea of whether that bike ride route is looking like a good one today.

2. Maps Search is getting more helpful

  • Photo-first results roll out this week in the US, UK and more
  • Thematic results rolls out this week globally on Android and iOS

Considering Google is still the king of search, Google Maps' search function isn't quite as powerful as it could be – but that's about to change this week.

Google says it sees millions of broader searches in Google Maps, like “animal latte art” or simply “things to do around me”, so it's bringing a couple of updates to help with those. The first is photo-first results for searches, which will come from an AI-powered analysis of billions of photos shared by Maps users.

Two phones on a blue background showing Google Maps search results

(Image credit: Google)

Rather than simply showing you cafes with 'animal latte art' in their name or reviews, it'll use this image analysis to give you a list of photo-based results, too. Pick your favorite from the images and it'll give you more info and directions. This feature is rolling out this week in the US, UK, France, Germany and Japan.

The other update, rolling out globally on Android and iOS this week, will help answer those broader 'things to do' searches. Rather than a long list of results, you'll now see themes appear in Google Maps search results (like 'art exhibitions' or 'anime'), which promises to make it more like a Maps-based Time Out guide.

3. Google Maps' AR mode spreads its wings

  • Lens in Maps comes to over 50 new cities this week

Did you know that Maps has a built-in Google Lens feature that can label things around you using your phone's camera? This used to be called 'Search with Live View', but Google now calls it 'Lens in Maps' – and this week the feature's coming to over 50 new cities.

Two phones on a blue background showing the Google Maps Lens in Maps feature

(Image credit: Google)

If you're feeling completely bamboozled in a new area, it's a handy feature – just tap the 'Lens' icon in the Google Maps search bar on Android or iOS. That opens a live camera view, so you can spin around and see what Google Maps has labeled in your immediate surroundings, like restaurants, ATMs, stations, or landmarks.

This AR-powered feature (which sounds ideal for some AR glasses, like Google's rumored Project Iris revival) is coming to dozens of new cities including Austin, Las Vegas, Rome, São Paulo, and Taipei. So look out for it on your next holiday.

4. Driving navigation will soon get clearer

  • improved navigation coming in “the coming months” to 12 countries

If you regularly use Google Maps as your in-car sat-nav, you'll be pleased to hear that some navigation improvements are coming down the road – well, in the “coming months” at least.

Google says these improvements will include “improved lane details” (like the below) to help you know exactly when to get off the highway, along with some more realistic buildings to help you pinpoint exactly where you are.

Two phones on a blue background showing Google Maps driving navigation

(Image credit: Google)

In the US, you'll also soon see HOV (High-occupancy vehicle lanes) on your route, while in Europe 20 new countries will soon get Google's AI-powered speed limit information.

These Maps navigation improvements for drivers will be rolling out in the “coming months” in 12 countries, including the US, Canada, France, and Germany. That timeframe can mean a wait of 3-6 months, but it's something to look out for.

5. More helpful EV charger info is en route

  • Rolling out this week on Android and iOS

If you have an electric car, you'll have been happy to see Google Maps' recent improvements to its charging station information – and that info will soon be getting a lot more detailed and useful.

Later this week on Android and iOS, Google says its charging station information on Maps will now include whether a charger is compatible with your car and how fast the chargers are, too.

A phone on a blue background showing the Google Maps EV charging station info

(Image credit: Google)

Perhaps most impressively, Maps will also show when the charger was last used – which will help you decide whether it's likely to be one of the many that's currently not working. 

Google says that 25% of EV chargers in the US are down at any given time, so this feature promises to be a potentially big time-saver (and stress reducer).

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Google Maps is getting a big accessibility update that could change how people connect with the world

Google is introducing new accessibility features to several of its platforms to help people with disabilities get around town more easily.

A few of the six changes will be exclusive to smartphones. Search with Live View on Google Maps will receive “screen reader capabilities… [giving] auditory feedback of the place around you”. This tool is meant to help “people who are blind or low-vision” get helpful info like the name or category of a location and how far away it is from their current position. All users have to do to activate it is tap the camera icon in the Google Maps search bar and then aim the rear camera at whatever is around them.  

Google Maps screen reader

(Image credit: Google)

The screen reader is making its way to iOS starting today with the Android version rolling out in the coming months. Also coming to mobile, the Chrome app’s address bar will be able to detect typos in text and display “suggested websites” according to what the browser thinks you’re looking for. This second tool is meant to help people with dyslexia find the content they’re looking for.

Google points out these two build on top of the recently released accessibility features on Pixel phones like the Magnifier app as well as the upgraded Guided Frame. The latter can help blind people take selfies by utilizing a “combination of audio cues, high-contrast animations, and haptic feedback”. 

Guided Frame is available on the Pixel 8 and 8 Pro with plans to expand it to the Pixel 6 and Pixel 7 by the end of the year.

Magnifier on Google Pixel

(Image credit: Google)

Easier navigation

The rest of the update consists of minor tweaks to select apps.

First, Google Maps on mobile is adding a “wheelchair-accessible transit” option for people looking for locations that don’t have any stairs at the entrance as well as buildings that are wheelchair friendly. Similarly, Maps for Android Auto will indicate “wheelchair-accessible places” on the screen with a little blue icon next to relevant results. Additionally, local businesses have the opportunity to label themselves as “Disabled-owned” on Google Search in case you want to support them directly.

The last change sees Assistant Routines on Google Home become more like the company's Actions Block app as users can configure the icons on the main screen however they want. For example, the on-screen icons can be increased in size and you can alter the thumbnail image for one of the blocks.

A Google representative told us this batch is currently rolling out so keep an eye out for the patch when it arrives.

We recommend checking out TechRadar’s list of the best text-to-speech software for 2023 if you’re looking for other ways to help you navigate the internet. 

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