Google starts a limited test of generative AI tools in Maps

Google is adding generative AI to Maps. The feature’s in early access and only available for certain areas and for select Local Guides members, but it looks to be an interesting use of the technology. Basically, the tool allows you to speak to the app using natural language to discover new places in your hometown or when traveling throughout this great country of ours.

Here’s how it works. Ask the app what you’re looking for, like a restaurant to meet the needs of your friend group with various dietary restrictions. The company’s large-language models will analyze information about more than 250 million places along with insights provided by community members as part of its Local Guides program. It should be able to spit out the perfect spot.

Google says the system will work “no matter how specific, niche or broad your needs might be.” The company gives a far-reaching example involving thrifting in San Francisco. It describes a scenario in which a person asks the app for vintage thrifting spots in the city. The AI models analyzed nearby places, along with photos, ratings and community reviews. The app spit out a range of options, complete with photo carousels and review summaries.

Because this is a generative AI, you can go even further. If you ask the app to find a good lunch spot, it’ll automatically look for something that matches the retro vibe of the aforementioned vintage shop. In other words, it remembers the stuff you like, within reason.

This feature can also be used on the fly, with Google giving an example of asking the AI for activities in the case of a sudden rainstorm. You can further refine search results by asking followup questions. This all seems pretty neat, but the feature is certainly limited for now, as it’s just for US users and only in select areas. Once early access users give enough feedback, it should start popping up in more places.

Of course, this isn’t Google’s first AI rodeo. The company to the Chrome browser and made its available to everyone in the US. It’s also continuing to and stuffing Pixel phones

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