The Future Of Google Maps: Social, Personalized And Way Smarter

Google Maps is about to get a lot smarter. The company unveiled the next iteration of its beloved geographic exploration apps at Google I/O this afternoon, sporting a visual overhaul and lots of new features. 

In addition to a redesigned, vector-based browser UI built in open Web standards, the new Google Maps will incorporate information about the user to build out a far more personalized experience. Using much of the same data that Google Now employs, Maps will deliver personalized recommendations, social tagging and smarter insights into where its users should go next - and how to get there. Indeed, the way Google Maps gives directions has also been redesigned with more intuitive, landmark-based querying and more thorough and accurate transit directions. 

Another significant addition to the Maps UI is what they're calling Cards. For each location, Google Maps will display a Card highlighting key information, photos and pertinent social data. 

The most vocal ooh's and ahh's came from the crowd at Google I/O when Maps Product Manager Bernie Seefeld unveiled the new immersive and 3D experiences through which Maps can zip. This includes indoor StreetView-style views of restaurants and other local businesses, as well as 3D flyovers of cities and landmarks built in part from crowdsourced user photos. 

Users can also zoom all the way out to a planet-level view, displaying and rotating the Earth, which shows clouds and sunlight - and night views - in real time. 

The updated Google Maps experience will be available on iOS and Android in June. Starting tomorrow, eager early adopters can test it out on the desktop. You can request an invitation to the new Maps by clicking this link.

Photo by Nick Statt for ReadWrite