While Amazon held its massive device showcase today, Google announced several new search features, including security updates. You can read about how Google will help you take sensitive information off its search engine here. But if you’re curious about some of the new, more UI-focused features coming to your smartphone, keep reading.
Google Maps will soon get a considerable update that the company hopes will inspire you to keep using it to plan your adventures. If you’re heading into a new part of town, a feature called Neighborhood Vibe will help you get a “vibe” of where you’re going by surfacing user reviews as you’re panning through the area. “To determine the vibe of a neighborhood, we combine AI with local knowledge from Google Maps users who add more than 20 million contributions to the map each day,” writes Google in its announcement blog.
Because if there’s anyone I trust to know what’s up where I live, it’s a bunch of crowdsourced internet randos.
This feature will begin rolling out globally in the coming months to both Android and iOS, though you can see some of its footprints currently. Tap the Explore button when you’re in an area on Google Maps, and it will bring up the latest Local Guide reviews.
Google is also finally pushing through immersive view to Google Maps, which it teased earlier this summer. Rather than having to drag and pan around a two-dimensional Street View trying to see what’s nearby, you’ll be able to explore photorealistic 3D aerial representations of famous landmarks worldwide and see things like where to enter a venue and where nearby parking lots are.
Admittedly, this is an effective way to get a “vibe check” of what the landmarks look like in person and what’s surrounding them. But it also competes against a feature added to Apple Maps last year.
Google Maps’ immersive view will roll out in the coming months in select places, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and London. But as of today, you can update Google Maps on your smartphone to preview one of 250 static aerial views that will sprout up in immersive mode. These views aren’t the entirety of what you’ll be able to do in the feature, but it’s a cool taste of what’s to come.
I updated Google Maps and got a chance to try out the view of Oracle Park in San Francisco, where the San Francisco Giants play. The aerial view is currently limited to a panning video rather than something you can interact with. Eventually, when the full immersive view experience launches this year, you’ll be able to interact with the three-dimensional area.
Lastly, you’ll soon be able to use Search with Live View. Like the ability to get walking directions using augmented reality, Search with Live View will highlight things you might be scoping out, like restaurants and ATMs—similar to how it would flag those places on a flat map. The ability will be available first in San Francisco, New York, London, Paris, and Tokyo.
Upcoming improvements to Visual Search
Earlier this year, Google announced multisearch in Lens, a feature that would let you look things up with images and text. At its Search On event, Google updated us on the feature; it will be available in over 70 languages in the next few months. The ability to “multisearch” by the location nearest to you will also start rolling out in English in the U.S. later this year.
Search shortcuts are also slowly rolling out to iOS users now, to help you get the most out of Google. Beginning today on iOS, update your Google Search app to see if the new search shortcuts have rolled out to you yet. The shortcuts are supposed to pop up below the search bar within the iOS Google app. They offer suggestions for how to use Google, like translating text with the camera. I’m not able to preview this feature yet on my iPhone 14 Pro Max running the iOS 16.1 Beta, though I did update the app.
Most of Google’s search announcements today weren’t complete surprises, considering the company teased most of what it’s working on at Google I/O earlier this year. At the very least, we know when to expect these new search abilities to crop up on our smartphones.