December 9, 2022

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Google makes search and maps more 'immersive'

Google makes search and maps more ‘immersive’

Google’s search engine looks a little different these days. Results pages are now often filled with shopping items, maps, news articles, information flyers, and advertisements before people can scroll to results lists — the blue links that have become synonymous with the service.

On Wednesday, at an event called Search On in San Jose, California, Google executives indicated that the search engine will keep pace with the latest Silicon Valley trends, and continue the company’s march away from text queries and results to become more image-focused and “immersive.”

When people search for vacation destinations, for example, they’ll see what Google calls “Visual Guidance” search results — curated collections of photos much like Stories on Snapchat or Instagram, along with a map and photos from travel sites that link to guides.

Users will be able to search Google using images and text simultaneously, point their cameras at an armchair or a shirt, for example, and refine their queries with text. “Camera is your next keyboard,” Prabhakar Raghavan, Senior Vice President at Google, wrote in a blog post.

“We have continued to find more natural and intuitive ways to find information,” Mr. Raghavan wrote of the changes, which he said the company expects to take effect in the “coming months.”

Wednesday’s event was the third of its kind in Search On, which began months after Mr. Raghavan gained oversight of the search engine and related departments. Google made routine Thousands of changes its search engine annually. While many of them are small, they add up to noticeable changes for the people who use them.

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Google revolutionized how people find information online in 1998. And in the decades since, it has amassed billions of users who have turned to the service to find nearby restaurants, look up movie times and check facts with their friends.

The Internet today is a more crowded place than it used to be, and Google has responded by offering an increasing number of ways to retrieve information services and trying to keep pace with modern technologies aimed at attracting Generation Z. However, the updates were subtle Developments in a profitable – and highly profitable – format.

In 2020 the company introduced Live View in Google Maps, allowing people to use their cameras to see where they are and get directions. Now, users will be able to search using Live View, and raise their camera so Google can direct them to the nearest ATM or coffee shop, using augmented reality — technology that places digital overlays on real-world images.

Augmented reality is expected to be one of the upcoming battlegrounds for Google and its competitors, along with related virtual reality.

Cathy Edwards, vice president and general manager of Google Search, said that while the company knew that Generation Z had a “strong preference for visuals,” the company wasn’t interested in building products for just one segment of the population.

However, the company appears to be taking inspiration from younger users when naming its new Maps feature, which shares top attractions in unfamiliar areas based in part on user feedback. Google called it Neighborhood Vibe.

“Get a bio-check before your visit,” wrote Chris Phillips, vice president and general manager of Google Geo, which includes maps.

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