Though it’s a mature product with a dominant market share, Google Maps’ roadmap resembles that of a younger, nimbler product. Part of that includes its AR navigation feature known as Live View. And its latest update is to make Live View more searchable (it is Google after all).
As background for those unfamiliar, Live View offers urban walking navigation through 3D directional overlays on an upheld smartphone. It utilizes Google’s Street View image database to localize devices (recognize where you’re standing) and overlay AR directional arrows accordingly.
As for the latest update, you can now search for businesses in the same 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 for your urban adventures.
“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 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.”
Frequency & Popularity
Going deeper on the UX, it includes both search and discover elements. Users can search for specific businesses, or discover what’s around them. For the latter, users can tap on different business categories when in Live View to activate category-based layers of nearby businesses.
To be fair, we knew this move was coming as it was teased at Google’s September Search On event. It recently went live, including new details like availability in London, LA, New York, Paris, and San Francisco. Categories initially available include coffee shops, banks, and ATMs.
Notably, the value in these categories stems mostly from their frequency and popularity. Google’s years of user search data have informed its choice to emphasize these business types. These are also popular searches within the dense urban locales where Live View is most used.
In addition to indicating the whereabouts of these businesses, Live View surfaces details like hours of operation. Again, Google is uniquely positioned to do this given the local business data/details it’s been collecting for years. And it has only scratched the surface in geo-local AR.
Internet of Places
Speaking of scratching the surface, we expect to see more AR features in Google Maps and in general. In tandem with Google Lens – Google’s visual search tool – Live View sits at the center of Google’s geo-local AR ambitions. This is also what we call the Internet of Places.
These ambitions stem from Google’s history of creating immense value indexing the web over the past 20+ years. Now it sees ample opportunity to do something similar by indexing the physical world. And part of that playbook is to build a corresponding knowledge graph, just like the web.
Initiatives under this tent so far include Lens and Live View, as well as monetizable shopping and eCommerce variations of both. And as noted, standing behind these features are Google’s unique data that it’s spent years building, such as Street View and indexed image libraries.
Altogether, Google is becoming more visual, which aligns with the proclivities of the camera-forward Gen-Z. This is all about future-proofing, given that the generation continues to gain purchasing power as it cycles into the adult consumer population. Google has its eye on that prize.