Google Maps is getting a major AI upgrade — what you need to know

Google Maps app icon on iPhone
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Google’s adding generative AI to another one of its products, and this time it’s Google Maps’ turn to integrate itself with the up and coming technology. Specifically in a way that’s designed to help you find new places in your local area. Which Google says will be helpful if you, or your party, are particular about the kind of places you want to go.

Google Maps’ new generative AI support should be able to help you make a decision. The idea being that no matter whether you’re looking for something ultra-niche or very broad, Google’s large-language learning models will be able to understand what you want — and the ability to analyze Maps’ wealth of information to identify suitable spots.

google maps generative ai capabilities

(Image credit: Google)

Results will then be organized into categories, such as clothing stores or markets, alongside photo carousels and review summaries. This is designed to highlight why the AI thinks a specific location is what you want, and give you an idea of what to expect when you actually get there.

Better still, you can keep the searches going by making requests for something even more specific. In Google’s example, asking for something with a vintage vibe in San Francisco will generate results from thrift stores and flea markets. Following that with a request for lunch will bring up retro-infused locations like 50’s-style diners — with Maps’ AI recognizing that these two requests are related.

google maps generative ai capabilities

(Image credit: Google)

When you hear the term “generative AI” you probably think of things like creating digital images out of thin air or trying to cheat on your homework. Obviously those things don’t really work so well when Google Maps is involved.

Instead Google is leveraging the underlying AI to help you get better search results, and what seems to be a more natural search process. That’s certainly something we can all get behind, rather than having to memorize pre-set search terms if we want any hope of finding the things we like.

The downside is that this feature isn’t rolling out to everyone just yet. Google is instead launching generative AI in Maps as an experimental early access feature. So its availability will be limited to Local Guides within the U.S. Who knows when it will reach everyone else, but no doubt we’ll be hearing more news about this kind of thing across all Google products at Google I/O 2024 in May.

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.