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Google wants to make Maps much more immersive

Google wants to make Maps much more immersive

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With new features like Immersive View and search with Live View, Google’s looking to go beyond a static top-down map

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Illustration: The Verge

If you open up Google Maps right now, I’m guessing you’ll probably search for where you want to go using a traditional 2D map. But Google has some ideas to help you discover the world around you in a far more immersive way, and it showed off some of what it’s working on at its Search On event on Wednesday.

One of those new features is what Google calls Immersive View, which it first demonstrated at this year’s Google I/O. On its face, it’s essentially a 3D aerial view of a certain area or location — think Apple Maps’ Flyover feature — but Immersive View also lets you go a level deeper by checking out weather, traffic, and even drill down to explore individual buildings. During Wednesday’s show, Google Maps VP and GM Chris Phillips gave a brief aerial tour of San Francisco’s Oracle Park baseball stadium before zooming in to the inside of a nearby restaurant to get an idea of what it’s like.

The company says Immersive View will be launching in Los Angeles, London, New York City, San Francisco, and Tokyo in the coming months. Google also provided an update on the aerial views of landmarks it first launched in July. At the time, the feature covered nearly 100 landmarks; as of Wednesday, it will cover 250 landmarks.

One new feature adds to Google Maps’ impressive Live View tool, which overlays information like walking directions via augmented reality on top of what you see from your camera’s viewfinder to help you get around. This new feature lets you search from within the Live View, making it easier to find things like ATMs or restaurants. It’s rolling out in London, Los Angeles, New York City, Paris, San Francisco, and Tokyo in the coming months. Check out this GIF from Google to get a better idea of how it works.

In this GIF, a user clicks an icon in the Google Maps app that takes them to a camera viewfinder. In the viewfinder, there are points of interest shown in augmented reality.
You’ll be able to find things near you right from Google Maps’ Live View.
GIF: Google

Another feature that isn’t quite so splashy is something Google is calling “neighborhood vibe.” The idea is that it can help people better understand what’s interesting in a neighborhood by highlighting popular and trending places and showing information like photos and reviews. This feature is coming to Android and iOS globally in the coming months.

All of these updates could help Google compete with Apple Maps, which just celebrated its 10th anniversary. Apple is diligently adding new features to improve its own product and is arguably ahead of Google’s aerial view with Flyover, a feature it has had since it launched. But Google Maps is still the preferred choice for many, and with Google making a concerted push into Apple’s territory with these 3D views, a lot more people might end up using them.