Google revamps Maps to feature top restaurant, travel tips from NYT, Lonely Planet, Infatuation … and AI

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Google is working on making its Maps service about more than just telling users where to turn left–eventually planning to serve up everything from related content to future vacation ideas, too.

The search giant said this week that it’s teamed with media outlets like the New York Times, Lonely Planet, and The Infatuation to add created lists of restaurants and attractions for certain travel destinations, beginning with 40 cities in the US and Canada. The company offered more details about how it’s bringing generative AI to Maps for the first time, a program announced in February that’s currently in pilot stages with select power users.

The updates, which Tech Brew previewed at a travel-themed Google event in Manhattan this week, come as Google has been using AI—not just generative AI—to change aspects of Maps, from info on EV charging stations to better recommendations.

Trendy trip tip

In addition to lists created by publisher partners, Google Maps will also generate lists of “trending” restaurants that are especially popular at a given time and “hidden gems,” or “up-and-coming” places that have been “steadily gaining a lot of interest,” Andrew Duchi, director of product at Google Maps, said onstage at the event.

When asked by another journalist at the event if Google planned to include recommendation lists from other sources like travel bloggers, Duchi said “we are going to be working with the little guys…we’re gonna take a sort of cautious approach to starting to surfacing those at first, but we will be trying to find some of these great lists from the Maps community.”

“We have some specific partnerships that I can’t get into with some of the large publishers,” Duchi told Tech Brew at the event. “We are not paying creators to create this content. One thing we are doing though is trying to engage with them about…like ‘How do we make this useful for you? How is this a tool that you can use?’”

AI everywhere

Google plans a wider rollout of its Maps generative AI features in the future as the tech giant continues to weave the technology throughout all of its offerings. Duchi said the integration will make Maps more conversational, so users can ask it, for instance, what to do on a rainy day in Chicago and refine results through dialogue like asking for kid-friendly options.

That feature is exclusively in the hands of top Local Guide volunteers for now, and there’s no “specific timeline” for when it will be available for all Maps users, Duchi said.

This article was initially published in Tech Brew, a branch of Morning Brew.

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