At I/O 2022, Google revealed an Immersive View feature for Maps that uses computer vision and AI to combine Street View and aerial photography into a 3D format. The idea is to create a detailed perspective of buildings and other aspects of the environment.
The feature is rolling out in five cities today. You’ll be able to check it out in London, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Tokyo. Google started offering a preview of the feature in those cities in September. Immersive View is coming to other cities over the next several months, including Amsterdam, Dublin, Florence and Venice.
Google is pitching Immersive View as a way to help folks plan a trip. The feature adds contextual information, including traffic, the weather and how busy a location typically is at different times of the day. You’ll be able to soar over buildings and see things like the location of an entrance to an attraction, so you don’t end up walking around an entire block to find a museum’s front door (nope, I definitely haven’t done that).
The company built Immersive View using an AI technique called neural radiance fields (NeRF), which converts photos into 3D representations. With the help of NeRF, Google can “accurately recreate the full context of a place including its lighting, the texture of materials and what’s in the background,” according to a blog post. “All of this allows you to see if a bar’s moody lighting is the right vibe for a date night or if the views at a cafe make it the ideal spot for lunch with friends.”
Google laid out some other Maps updates as well. A feature called “glancable directions” will help you track your journey from your lock screen or route overview whether you’re walking, on your bike or using public transit. It can tell you where to turn and keep you updated on the estimated time of arrival, and it will update the info if you switch up the route. Glancable directions will arrive on iOS (where it will be available through Live Activities) and Android in the coming months.
Moreover, there are more features on the way to electric vehicles with Google built-in. The system will factor in charging stops for shorter trips that require one, and it will suggest the best charging station based on variables like traffic, your current battery level and how much energy your EV is using. You’ll have access to a “very fast” filter to locate “stations that have chargers of 150 kilowatts or higher.” In addition, you’ll be able to filter search results for locations that have charging stations to help you figure out, for instance, which supermarket to go to so you can top up your battery while buying groceries.
Meanwhile, Google is expanding Search with Live View and Indoor Live View to more locations in the coming months. The company has also offered a peek at its upcoming Search chatbot, Bard, but things didn’t entirely go smoothly.