Google Maps Celebrates 15 Years, Adds Crowd-Sourced Info, More Tabs, Icon Redesign

As the app turns 15 years old, Google is revamping Google Maps for both iOS and Android and will soon include crowd-sourced information like transit data, restaurant guidance and other destination information.

Since its launch, Google Maps has evolved from a tool to help users find their destination to a destination in and of itself. To commemorate its 15 years, Google this week is giving Maps an update and sharing insight into how technologies like AI have helped make Maps more useful and engaging.

According to a press release from the tech giant, new features rolling out immediately include a new smartphone icon and a toolbar with three new tabs on the bottom of the screen — Saved, Contribute and Updates. The Commute and Explore tabs will remain, while the For You button will be removed.

“With more than 1 billion people turning to Google Maps to see and explore the world, we’re celebrating our 15th birthday with a new look and product updates based on feedback from you,” the post said.

Upgrades to public transit and augmented reality (AR) will roll out in March. Google will be expanding transit crowdedness predictions to help users plan their travels. You will soon be able to view details such as temperature, accessibility, whether a security guard is present, the number of carriages a train has, and if there is a designated women’s section.

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The AR live view feature will overlay digital guides to indicate which way to walk and identify nearby objects. It will also show how far a destination is using redesigned markers.

“By combining Street View’s real-world imagery, machine learning and smartphone sensors, Live View in Google Maps shows you your surroundings with the directions overlaid in augmented reality,” explains Google.

The new icon and tab interface will roll out today on both iOS and Android devices; the new transit information and Live View mode will arrive in a future update sometime next month.

Along with the new features, Google Maps chief Jen Fitzpatrick has taken a look at the first 15 years of the service and what a “gargantuan task” it is. Thanks to AI and machine learning, Fitzpatrick says Google has “mapped as many buildings in the last year as we did in the previous 10,” and is using the technology to better identify handwritten building numbers in areas where formal street signs are uncommon. In Lagos, Nigeria, for example, she says machine learning has helped Google Maps add 20,000 street names, 50,000 addresses, and 100,000 new businesses.

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