Though it’s a mature product with a dominant market share, Google Maps updates seem to resemble the roadmap of a younger, hungrier product. Part of that includes a more 3D-visual navigation UX, also known as Live View. And its latest update is to make Live View more searchable (it is Google after all).
Backing up, Live View is Google’s 3D/AR mapping feature for urban walking navigation. It utilizes Google’s Street View image database to localize devices (recognize where you’re standing) and overlay AR directional arrows on your route. It’s an intuitive way to navigate in high-density urban contexts.
As for the latest update, you can now search for businesses in the same three-dimensional UX. By holding up your phone to a given streetscape, you can search for a business (say, ATMs) to see them revealed visually through AR. Think of it as a visual intelligence layer to your regular line of sight.
“You can just lift up your camera and see overlaid on the real world the ATM that’s nearby,” said Google VP and GM of Geo Chris Phillips at a recent Google event “You can also see coffee shops, grocery stores, and transit stations. You really get a sense of what an area is like at a glance.”
Going deeper on the UX, it includes both search and discover elements. Users can search for specific businesses (and categories), or discover what’s around them as characterized above. When in Live View, users can tap on different business categories to activate “layers” (our word) of proximate businesses.
This update was teased at Google’s September Search On event but went live late last week with some new updates and revelations. For example, the visual search function is available for a variety of business verticals. However, Google emphasizes high-value categories like coffee shops, banks, and ATMs.
These categories’ value comes not from their transaction sizes, but frequency of use and popularity. Google’s years of user search data have presumably informed its choice to emphasize these business types. With the most common searches in the locales (again, urban) where Live View is used.
In addition to indicating the whereabouts of these businesses, Google will reveal details like hours of operation and other vitals. Google is uniquely positioned to do all of the above given the data it’s been collecting in years of local search. And it’s only scratched the surface in local visual search.
That gets back to Google Maps’ product roll-out cadence, which shows no signs of slowing. This is especially true for some of these emerging tech integrations that are themselves at an earlier life cycle. That translates to more experimentation we’ll likely see for 3D and immersive features in Google Maps.
Meanwhile, the new searchability in Live View goes “live” this week on iOS and Android in London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris, San Francisco and Tokyo.