Tech

Google to use augmented reality to revamp search and map features for younger, TikTok-savvy users

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Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images
Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images
  • Augmented reality will allow people to search using images through their smartphone cameras.
  • Google's Maps feature will be updated to provide a more immersive experience.
  • Google's slew of other announcements included its next big smartphone launch, the Pixel 6a.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Google is updating its Maps and search features as it seeks to broaden its appeal to a younger generation more familiar with image and video-heavy content found on TikTok and Instagram.

The tech behemoth plans on rolling out a "multisearch" function which will allow people to combine images and text to make searches, it announced at its annual I/O conference near its California headquarters. It also promised a more immersive experience for its Maps feature.

"We see a tendency — a demand even — to interact with the physical world," Prabhakar Raghavan, Google's senior VP and product chief told Bloomberg, adding that younger internet users are turning to Instagram and TikTok searches to figure out things such as where to go for lunch.

Google made 100 new announcements at the I/O conference, taking place May 11 and 12. The upgrades come as the company seeks to compete with rivals, including Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft. 

"For example, say you see a colourful dish online you'd like to try – but you don't know what's in it, or what it's called," Raghavan wrote on the company's blog. "When you use multisearch to find it near you, Google scans millions of images and reviews posted on web pages, and from our community of Maps contributors, to find results about nearby spots that offer the dish so you can go enjoy it for yourself."

The change, Raghavan told Bloomberg, is to allow people to have a more seamless experience with searches.

"Search should be something that you can do anywhere, in any way you want, using any of your senses," Raghavan told the outlet.

The Google Map update uses new computer vision – a type of AI technology that gets information from video and images – to offer a more experiential view of neighbourhoods, landmarks, restaurants and other venues, according to a post by VP of Google Maps, Miriam Daniel. 

"Say you're planning a trip to London and want to figure out the best sights to see and places to eat," wrote Daniel. "With a quick search, you can virtually soar over Westminster to see the neighbourhood and stunning architecture of places, like Big Ben, up close."

The updated feature will also allow users to assess traffic, crowd size or weather conditions at places to make it "feel like you're right there before you ever set foot inside."

Developers are looking to take the feature even farther by building 3-D experiences based on the fusion of billions of Street View and aerial images, though something like a metaverse is still early in stages, Raghavan told Bloomberg.

"For this to really blossom into a metaverse or something of that nature, we need 200 or 2,000 such experiences," he said. "We're so early in the game that I'm not anxious to rush into characterising the phenomenon yet." 

The new search and maps features will roll out later this year, starting with a few cities which include New York, London, and Tokyo, according to Bloomberg.

Google's slew of other announcements at its annual developer conference also included the launch of its next smartphone launch, the Pixel 6a, a smaller budget version of the premium Pixel 6.

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