Google Maps turns 15, celebrates with new design and features

Can you remember how we found anywhere before Google Maps? It has become an integral part of the fabric of daily life. Now, as it celebrates its 15th birthday, what new features can we expect to see?

Google Maps turns 15
Google Maps introduces a new logo to mark its 15th birthday. Image: Google

The big G

Visually, the biggest change to Google Maps is the logo. Having been last updated in 2015, the new graphic shows a map pin, in the synonymous Google brand colours.

Sundar Pichai reflects on the journey that Maps has taken, and has even created a map showing his favourite burrito joints ‘In honour of Google Maps’ 15th birthday’.

Pichai talks about the ‘next frontiers’ in the advancement of Google Maps. One key focus is on creating open-source digital addresses. These will be created for the billions of people around the world without a physical address.

Digital addresses, such as those at what3words, have multiple uses. They mean that people without a street address can register for a bank account and receive their post. Digital locations have also become invaluable to emergency services in locating people in need of assistance.

Google Street View Image
Google Street View includes over 10 million miles of location images. Image: Google

Deep investment

As well as looking forward, Pichai looks back at how innovations like Street View came into being. He talks about the ambitious concept of creating banks of images of every street in the world. Pichai says:

That helped to inspire deep investments in machine learning—and these investments continue to accelerate our progress to make maps (and all of our products) useful to people around the world.

New features

In terms of new features, this is more of an update than anything completely new. Functions such as ratings are being brought into more prominent positions.

Users will be able to save their favourite places to the front of the app, to make location saving and storing in categories easier to access.

Google is expanding on its ‘crowdedness predictions’ tool to help commuters around the world have an easier ride. These new features include information about temperature, security, accessibility and the number of carriages available. It is expected to go live in March.

Other new functions are being introduced over the next few weeks. This includes a new Live View augmented reality view. Google says:

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.

It certainly looks pretty cool!

Google Maps Live View AR
Google Maps Live View will use AR to overlay directions and distances. Image: Google

The future of Maps

We reported in December how Google has now captured over 10 million miles of Street View images. In itself, that is an astonishing feat.

There are very few corners of the globe it does not now cover. Some of those are subject to furious speculation as to what might be there!

98% of the world is now included on the app – the remaining 2% are mostly countries who have security restrictions in place.

Making Maps easier for people to use, and prioritising it for personal customisation is a good idea. For me and my complete lack of direction, I can’t imagine getting anywhere on time without it!

Since Google managed to fulfil the crazy idea of photographing 98% of every street and every mountain in every corner of the world, I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!

Happy birthday Google Maps!

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