By Jim Karpen on Fri, 05/17/2013
Google held a major press event Wednesday, announcing a number of new initiatives. The most significant may have been a new version of Maps that will highlight locations based on your history and other Google applications you use. As an article in The New York Times says, it's both useful and a little creepy. Initially it will only be available to those who sign up for the feature. And it won't come to mobile devices until later. But Google's vision is that once you're logged into a Google service on whatever device you're using, you'll see personalized maps tailored to your interests.
So how will it work? According to the Times, when you're logged into Google and are using Google Maps, it will highlight places you visit frequently, such as your home and favorite restaurants.
The arguably creepy part comes in when Google not only learns your preferences based on your past interactions with Maps, but also your search history and other Google products you use in the same way advertisers give you tailored ads based on your web browsing history.
When you visit a new city or place you haven't been before, Google will highlight locations of interest based on information it has gathered about your preferences, as well as the preferences of people whose tastes are similar to yours. This prospect fascinates me. I like going to ethnic vegetarian restaurants. It will be so convenient for me when I'm in a new city if Google Maps is able to quickly identify nearby restaurants that are popular among people who like the same fare.
According to the Times article, the maps change in real time. If you're in a new city and click on a museum that interests you, the map will then highlight other museums in the city.
The online version of Google Maps will also incorporate Google Earth, rather than having the 3D satellite imagery available via the free Google Earth app. It's not clear whether this feature will be in the mobile version, though, but Google did emphasize that its goal was to provide the same experience across devices.
At yesterday's event, Google also announced a number of other services. They include an on-demand streaming music subscription service similar to Spotify for $9.99/month. The service also has a customization feature similar to that offered by Pandora, which lets you create your own radio stations.
The Times also describes some of Google's enhancements to the photo capability of Google Plus. The most amazing is that the service can actually sort through your photos and choose the best ones, and it can also do automated editing of your photos.
The exciting part of this is Google's intention to have these features common to all of the devices you use. So they'll soon be available on your iPhone and iPad.