Google Maps tests generative AI-driven discovery feature

Google Maps has unveiled a new discovery feature using generative artificial intelligence.

The development enables users to say what they’re looking for and its large language models will work in the background analyzing million of places as well as insights from its community to return suggestions.

The “experiment” is launching to select Local Guides in the United States this week and Google will use their feedback to shape the feature going forward.

Explaining the feature in a blog post, Miriam Daniel, vice president and general manager of Google Maps, said, “Let’s say you’re visiting San Francisco and want to plan a few hours of thrifting for unique vintage finds. Just ask Maps what you’re looking for, like ‘places with a vintage vibe in SF.’ Our AI models will analyze Maps’ rich information about nearby businesses and places along with photos, ratings and reviews from the Maps community to give you trustworthy suggestions.”

The post adds that results will be categorized with review summaries and an image carousel also surfaced. The feature also enables follow-up questions that are in context with the original search.

“This experimental capability introduces a whole new way for people to more easily discover places and explore the world with Maps,” Daniel said. “This is just the beginning of how we’re supercharging Maps with generative AI.”

The development is interesting in the context of whether Google Maps could become a full travel app. The concept was discussed in a report by Lufthansa Innovation Hub last year, which explored the power of map-based apps for travel planning.

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