Variety

More than just Maps!

Mahananda Bohidar | Updated on March 12, 2018

All locations in the new Google Maps are accompanied by snaps taken from Google Street View.

The overall presentation of Google Maps looks a lot neater and streamlined.

Digital maps used to be one of those things that we did not even know we needed. That’s till Google introduced Google Maps eight years ago! Yes, it has been THAT long. Since then, we have learned to use Google Maps for much more than just directions. And Google, prescient as it almost always is, has tapped into the habits of the consumer in designing the brand new avatar of the Google Map.

When the announcements for a refurbished version of the Maps were made about two weeks ago, it came along with a slew of other changes regarding Google’s bundle of Web services – making Google+ plus more interactive and refining its popular Chrome browser.

While you could immediately log in and check out the new features on Google+, Maps needed a special invite from the Google team and I signed up for a request before you could say ‘Coffee Shop’. And surely a couple of days later, I got an invite saying I could now check out the new Google Maps!

The new version is a neater, bigger layout than the existing Google Maps we use on a web browser. There’s only one search bar and the rest of the screen space is taken by the virtual map.

The popular service is going to get more interactive in the sense that it actually trawls through your friends’ reviews to see if they like a particular coffee shop or not. It’s also easy for you to save your home and work addresses so you can quickly look up distances and directions from those locations.

While Google has redesigned it in such a way that the map is all that is in focus on the screen, it has also offered a full-screen option to make the experience better. You can search for a place by its name (such as Domino’s Pizza) or a generic term like “coffee shop” and Maps will show you all your options nearby along with ratings and reviews from other users. This pop-up-like info card can be saved and come back to later I case you’re looking for multiple places at once.

The search bar also shows the most recent destinations that you might have looked for in the bar. You can also set your home addresses as a default on the search bar.

Personally I’ve used Google Maps to explore holiday destinations or getaways even before I get there. If you tend to do the same, then Google Maps has some new tricks up its sleeve. So, say you’re heading to Ladakh this summer and are doing some research based on Google Maps, it will show you pictures of places and tourist attraction in and around Ladakh. So you can glimpse pics of Leh Palace or Pangong Tso even before you get there and maybe make a decision on whether to visit a place or not base don the pics. This has been made available by Google’s Street View which has a wide database of images from all around the world.

The Maps layout in itself seems to contain a lot more (pertinent) information than the current Google Maps available. It also shows you signs for bus stops or train station when you zoom in, without having to ask for the information. Apart from these, Google Maps also highlights every business for example a bar or a restaurant with its own unique icon. In this case, a orange cocktail glass for bars and a fork and a spoon indicating a place to get some grub, a bright green tree for a public park and so on.

Google has also tried to augment the symbiotic relationship between Maps and Google+ by sourcing reviews from other Google Plus users, not necessarily within your circles. Users, however, have the freedom to add unknown profiles to their Circles when they chance upon them. This might be a bit of a ain for those who don’t want to be connected with strangers on the social network, which still seems to be finding its feet.

Google Maps however, seems to know exactly where its heading and what it has in store with the new version of Maps is likely to have users switch to the new version more willingly than they expected!

>mahananda.bohidar@thehindu.co.in

Published on May 30, 2013

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