Google Maps is Getting New AI Features

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Although it’s a close race between Apple Maps and Google Maps these days, the search giant has always had one advantage over Apple due to the staggering amount of data it collects and catalogs.

For example, while Apple Maps offers a decidedly gorgeous user interface and tighter integration with the Apple ecosystem, and both apps are roughly on par when it comes to navigation accuracy (which depends mainly on where you live), Google Maps consistently comes out ahead when it comes to providing more detailed information about businesses, landmarks, and other points of interest.

Now, Google is enhancing that data while also rolling in some of its AI expertise to help you plan your summer vacations.

In a new blog post, Google Maps’ product director, Andrew Duchi, highlights three new features that will leverage the service’s already strong recommendations to automatically create and share lists of places you might like to visit on an excursion to a new city. These features will be accompanied by AI algorithms that promise to surface the most important details about those places in a timely manner.

While Google has offered curated lists of places to visit for some time (and Apple added its own Guides in iOS 14), these were primarily static lists from well-known publications like Lonely Planet, The New York Times, and OpenTable. However, with these new updates, Google promises that Maps will provide “curated lists of recommendations from people who know the city well” alongside those more professional lists from popular travelogues.

More significantly, Google Maps will now create three dynamic restaurant lists to highlight the hot spots and hidden gems in each city. These include a Trending list that will be updated weekly to include those plans that “have recently seen a spike in popularity on Maps,” a Top list that rounds up everything the community consistently loves, and a Gems list that will show some of each city’s best-kept secrets — “great restaurants that still fly under the radar,” Duchi says.

These lists are being rolled out in more than 40 cities across the US and Canada this week and will be accompanied by new AI features that will help you “get a good sense of a place and its highlights at a glance” by filtering out the noise and even identifying photos contributed by a business or other visitors to a place.

For instance, Google’s AI will help you identify restaurant dishes from photos and even provide summaries of restaurant menus so you can get a feel for what your visit might cost and the broader cuisine types that are available, such as vegan or vegetarian selections.

While Google has a strong lead in this area, these updates provide some interesting examples of what Apple could add to Apple Maps as it kicks off a stronger push into its own generative AI. We haven’t heard much about AI features coming to Apple Maps — so far, the only rumors point to custom routes and topographic maps on iPhone — iOS 18 is expected to unlock a lot of new AI capabilities, from Siri improvements to automatically generated Apple Music Playlists, so while we’re not holding our breath, we can’t rule out the possibility that Apple’s mapping platform might get some new smarts, too.

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