A New Google Maps Feature Has Potential to Save Lives

In recognition of National Recovery Month, Google has released two new map-related tools aimed at both aiding those in recovery from drug addition and helping to make the life-saving drug Naloxone more accessible.

The centerpiece of the company’s effort is a new website, Recover Together, which seeks to centralize resources for those looking to overcome addiction.

A screenshot of the Naloxone Locator Tool.

The Recovery Locator Tool, as the name would suggest, is a Google Maps page specifically designed to help individuals find recovery resources near them. And the Naloxone Locator Tool is a Google Maps page that aims to assist those looking to acquire Naloxone — a drug that can reverse overdoses.

According to the press release, the initiative was launched based on the insight that people use Google on a daily basis to seek out information on addiction and recovery:

“[In] fact, just last month, we saw an all-time high in search interest for ‘rehab near me,’ ‘addiction treatment near me,’ and ‘how to help an addict.'”

While the aim is to help those searching for this info, Google has taken privacy into account and is assuring that visits to this website would not be associated with any specific users. Page views will be measured, but anonymized and only in the aggregate. What’s more, the company claims it will not use Naloxone-related searches to target ads.

Why It’s Hot

It’s great to see Google using their search data for good, not for profit. Providing these tools for those who are struggling to ask for help and turning to Google for anonymous advice is filling a critical need.


Google launches ‘Live View’ AR walking directions for Google Maps

Google is launching a beta of its augmented reality walking directions feature for Google Maps.

Originally revealed earlier this year, Google Maps’ augmented reality feature has been available in an early alpha mode to both Google Pixel users and to Google Maps Local Guides, but starting today it’ll be rolling out to everyone,.

Just tap on any location nearby in Maps, tap the “Directions” button and then navigate to “Walking,” then tap“Live View” which should appear near the bottom of the screen.

The Live View feature isn’t designed with the idea that you’ll hold up your phone continually as you walk — instead, in provides quick, easy and super-useful orientation by showing you arrows and big, readable street markers overlaid on the real scene in front of you. That makes it much, much easier to orient yourself in unfamiliar settings, which is hugely beneficial when traveling in unfamiliar territory.

Source: TechCrunch

Why It’s Hot

Seems like a good use of AR for actual utility and building on existing ecosystem.


A new use for Google Maps: calculating a city’s carbon footprint

Looking at a city’s Google Maps data, in combination with other data, a new tool from Google can estimate the carbon footprint of all of its buildings–and the carbon footprint of all the car trips, bus and subway rides, and other transportation used by the people living there.

The Environmental Insights Explorer, an online tool that launched in beta on September 10, is designed to help cities take the first step to reduce emissions: knowing what their current carbon footprint is. More than 9,000 cities have already committed to cut emissions in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement, but more than a third of those cities haven’t yet built an inventory of emissions. The process can take months or even years, and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, making it particularly challenging for smaller cities.

The new tool, which Google created along with the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, can help cities calculate a large chunk of those emissions at no cost. “This is looking at the thousands of cities that are out there today that don’t typically have the resources to spend on digging up the data or analyzing the data,” says Nicole Lombardo, who leads partnerships for Google’s environmental insights team, which is creating the tool. “This tool helps to do some of that and reduce some of the complexities and the cost in that process, so you have more people spending less time data gathering and data crunching and more on the action planning.”

Using Google Maps data, the tool can infer whether buildings are homes or businesses, and then can use the estimated size of each building and data about the regional grid to estimate both how much energy the buildings use and the emissions of that energy use. Using location data from Google Maps, the tool can infer traffic and modes of travel, and then estimate the emissions from that transportation.

Cities can go deeper into the tool to adjust the data to estimate how the footprint would change if the amount of housing grew, for example, or if the city added a new subway line. The tool also pulls in Google’s Project Sunroof, which uses AI to analyze satellite images to determine which roofs are well suited for solar power, so cities can consider solar power as they begin to plan how to cut emissions.

Why it’s hot: This technology is saving cities major costs and letting them focus on the real issue at hand: cutting emissions.

Source: FastCo

google maps adds wait times…

Knowing when a local business is busy is helpful, knowing how long you would have to wait if you went is even better. Enter Google.

Google’s Search and Maps apps, and Google.com now provide users estimated wait times for both local restaurants and grocery stores (see above).

Now, you’ll be able to see how long would you wait if you went right now, or when there’s a shorter wait if that’s what you need. It also lets you know when peak times are so you can avoid them, or prepare yourself for the pain. Here’s how it works:

“Google’s new restaurant wait times also comes from the aggregated and anonymized data from users who opted in to Google Location History – the same data that powers popular times, wait times and visit duration.”

Why it’s hot:

Forever, one of the first questions when you have to go to the grocery store or a restaurant, is – I wonder how long I’ll have to wait. With one simple new feature, Google has removed this age-old mystery. They’re not the first to do it for restaurants, but considering how many people use Google to find one, they certainly have the power to affect the most users.

Google Maps Pulls Calorie-Counting Feature After Criticism

Stephanie Zerwas, the clinical director of the Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders at the University of North Carolina, was trying to find a restaurant in Orlando, Fla., last weekend, so she put the address into Google Maps for directions.

She was baffled to see a new feature: The iPhone app told her that walking instead of driving would burn 70 calories. While it was perhaps meant as an incentive to walk, those with eating disorders might instead fixate on the number, a dangerous mind-set that counselors try to minimize, she said.

“We’ve gotten into this habit of thinking about our bodies and the foods we take in and how much activity we do as this mathematical equation, and it’s really not,” she said. “The more we have technology that promotes that view, the more people who may develop eating disorders might be triggered into that pathway.”

On Monday night, Google pulled the feature, which it said was an experiment on its iOS app. The decision followed a wave of attention on social media; while some of the responses saw Google’s feature as promoting exercise, there were several complaints that it was dangerous or insulting.

Some users were especially upset that the app used mini cupcakes to put the burned calories into perspective, framing food as a reward for exercise, or exercise as a prerequisite for food. (One mini cupcake, it said, was worth a little less than 125 calories, but no information was provided about how that calculation was made.)

Calorie counting has long been a contentious topic at the nexus of nutrition, exercise and eating disorders. In New York, among other cities, some restaurants are required to post calorie numbers on their menus and displays, an effort the Trump administration is trying to overturn. The Affordable Care Act required some national restaurants to do the same, though the Food and Drug Administration repeatedly delayed the deadline.

Source: NY Times

Why It’s Hot: Interesting example of brands adjusting strategy based on social media feedback. What was probably considered a useful, helpful feature by developers was clearly not well received by customers.

Slow down baby, this is too fast…

Arteris, a road operator from Brazil released Speed-O-Track, an app that encourages drivers to obey the speed limit by messing up their music.

When a driver breaks the speed limit, the app increases the tempo of the music being played on Spotify. It does this by connecting to Google Maps data to identify the speed limit and distorts accordingly.


Granted, the benefits of this largely depend on people downloading the app. To encourage this, Arteris has offered a free month’s subscription to Spotify to the first 500 people who download the app.

Why It’s Hot

  • It’s an example of a brand developing tech that fits nicely with their business objectives while solving a problem for their customers
  • It came up with a nice solve to encourage adaption
  • Instead of building tech from scratch, it layered on to existing platforms, once again demonstrating we don’t have reinvent the wheel to develop something groundbreaking.

Source: https://www.contagious.io/articles/fast-tracking

Hey dude, where’s my car?

A new Google Maps feature lets you save your parking location on a map.

You can even add a note to give yourself more precise instructions for later, add a timer (with a 15-minute reminder), send your parking location to a friend or save an image of the spot.

Read more here.

Why It’s Hot

‘Good enough’ is never good enough for Google, who keeps improving their users’ experiences.

This new feature: was it critical? Probably not. Is it useful. Very much. This new feature basically responds to an everyday pain point: Always forget where you parked? 

And this is different to Google Maps’ automatic Bluetooth-enabled parking detection, which figures out where you’ve parked without your intervention. — Which is great news, because does not limit its scope to specific technologies (e.g., Bluetooth integration), in turn, responding to broader use cases: always forget your [enter any location-related input here]? Always forget your locker room at the gym?



Welcome to the Island

As part of it’s marketing campaign, Kong: Skull Island has establish “Skull Island” on google maps. With 200 pictures and almost 9,000 reviews this stunt is a fun, and interactive way to engage with the movie.

Kong Skull Island Google Maps Promo

Kong Skull Island Google Map

Skull Island

Why it’s hot: 

  • As strategists we are always looking to engage with our audiences in a way that makes them feel as if they are a part of the brand experience, rather than being “talked at”
  • Utilizing a common platform to bring something new in marketing

But did it work? 

Kind of

They achieved some decent PR coverage and great engagement but the experience falls flat after the initial “cool” factor wears off. However, other films such as Fantastic Beasts and where to Find Them and Star Wars: the Force Awakens also partnered with  google to much greater effect with greater pay off based on their cult followings.


Google Expands Beyond Maps, Plans to Recreate Building Interiors in 3-D

Google already maps the world, but the internet giant has bigger plans for its next location-based technology.

The Alphabet Inc. unit wants to digitally map the interiors of buildings in 3-D down to a resolution of a few inches, and make money in virtual reality along the way, through a project named Tango.

The company plans a big expansion of the technology this year and ultimately wants to make it ubiquitous, according to a person familiar with the situation. Job postings and recent updates to Tango’s developer software show steps toward this ambitious goal. Google will showcase progress at its I/O developer conference near its Silicon Valley headquarters May 18-20.

Tango packs cameras and depth sensors along with other software into Android smartphones and tablets. Fire up the application and point the device at a space and it sucks in images and depth information to re-create the environment on the screen and locates itself within that new digital realm.

Google hopes Tango will support a system for independent developers to create new virtual reality applications and services. Video games could have characters that hide behind real-life furniture. A museum app could show 3-D animations when you walk past an exhibit. A grocery store could highlight sale items and guide shoppers to the right shelf.

Unlike most emerging virtual reality systems, Tango doesn’t need external equipment to re-create the world digitally. And unlike Google Maps it can figure out the details of a space without additional data sources.

“Tango is the indoor extension of their outdoor mapping platform,” said Lex Dreitser, a virtual reality developer who builds Tango applications.

Tango started in a Google research lab more than two years ago, but the company is trying to take it mainstream this year. It’s going into new smartphones from Intel and Lenovo Group and the software has been updated to let it easily run on more devices. And there are signs Google is working on the most important challenge: Making Tango 3-D maps shareable so the company can someday patch them together into a single, detailed digital representation of many of the world’s buildings, rooms and the stuff inside them.

Google Maps is one of Google’s most successful services, used by more than a billion people every month. It’s stitched into other popular Google services, like Gmail, Calendar and Photos. With more detailed maps, Google could build new advertising and location-based services into its products. It could also offer these capabilities to outside developers, letting them create more powerful applications for its Android operating system.

“If Tango could digitize every single physical commerce place, then all of a sudden Google has an exponential opportunity to place very relevant contextual physical advertising in every space,” said Nathan Pettyjohn, Chief Executive Officer of Aisle411, a mobile commerce and location company that has built applications for Walgreens Boots Alliance and Toys R Us. “It literally gives me goose bumps talking about it.”

Tango could also make Google a potent virtual reality rival to Facebook’s Oculus and HTC’s Vive. The Vive and the Oculus need separate sensors along with their headsets to map a room, while Tango does it with components in the phone or tablet. The closest competitor may be Microsoft’s HoloLens, a headset that integrates the technology. Occipital, a startup, makes a device that can be attached to standard Apple Inc. iOS and Android devices to give them 3-D sensing capabilities. Apple may be working on VR and 3-D sensing too through PrimeSense, a company it acquired in 2013.

Gina Scigliano, a spokeswoman for Google, declined to comment.

In January, Google software engineer Eitan Marder-Eppstein said the technology had “a lot of potential for indoor navigation.” And back in 2014, another Google engineer, Simon Lynen, said the company was researching how to use multiple Tango devices to build large, detailed maps that could be combined and downloaded to devices giving them “a human-scale understanding of space and motion.”

“With I/O it feels like they’re really doubling down on it,” said Andrew Nakas, who has been building Tango applications for two years. “I can do things now I had no expectation I could do back then in 2014.”

Kris Kitchen, an inventor, built an application for the blind using Tango and a backpack-sized speaker called a SubPac. Tango maps a space and passes that data to the SubPac, which vibrates differently according to the proximity of objects. That gives blind people an additional sense — touch — alongside hearing to get around.

For Tango applications like this to reach the most people, 3-D data will need to be easily shareable among devices. That would mean one person could map a museum, and another person could build an application based on the original map, or extend it, saving effort.

Google is working on this by building a system that allows Tango devices to share maps with other devices. It may also weave all these maps together and store the information in its data centers so it can be accessed by even more devices.

Tango will “rely on cloud infrastructure to store, merge, and serve location data to specific Project Tango devices,” Google wrote in a job posting in February for a mobile software engineer to work on the project. The company asked for “experience with Google Maps and other related location products.”

A cloud service would make life easier for developers, according to Pettyjohn. “Right now you have to save these mapping files on the device,” he said. A cloud service would make it so “anytime you need it, you pull down a file on the spot.”

— Bloomberg News


This could be an interesting opportunity for retailers to help customers navigate to things they need more quickly, but I question HOW helpful and used it will actually be.  I find the use of Google Maps much more useful since it’s a GPS, but people don’t always need a map of a store.  Could be useful for malls or places where a lot of stores exist in one area.

Honda Brings Back ‘The Fastest Seat In Sports’ For IndyCar


Honda Performance Development has several Formula super-cars in this IndyCar race season, and the field is bearing down on the Indy 500 on May 24, the most iconic race in the series. Now you can take one of Honda’s open-wheel racers for a drive around your neighborhood, at 200 mph. Honda’s interactive experience at FastestSeat.com lets you
enter your address, then Google Maps forms a custom racetrack, and gives the user a virtual street-view drive from the driver’s seat in the Indy car. It’s part of Honda’s yearly program to celebrate the iconic open-wheel super-car race.

Why it’s Hot

This is Honda’s fourth year with its “Fastest Seat in Sports” campaign, including a sweepstakes, new advertising and the interactive experience, the IndyCar Speed Simulator, at FastestSeat.com. After people play the simulator game, they are prompted to enter the sweepstakes. Participants can win a chance to ride in the IndyCar 2-seater with Mario Andretti at the wheel and also trips to next year’s Indy 500 or one of 12 races this season. Everyone loves the thrill of fast cars and being in the driver’s seat. Honda is hoping to reach the auto racing enthusiast who also happens to be in market for a car.

Google Joins the Hunt for the Loch Ness Monster With Underwater Street View

People have been looking for the Loch Ness Monster for centuries, but now Google has brought some high-tech dragon-hunting software to the search.

Google has brought underwater Street View to the famous Scottish loch, having introduced it last year to the Great Barrier Reef. You can now jump right into Loch Ness in Google Maps, and peer down into the murky depths.

You won’t see quite as much as you do at Great Barrier Reef. But it’s a charming conceit, and one that Google is running with—even going so far as putting a Loch Ness doodle on the Google U.K. homepage.

“A huge part of Google’s mission is to help make mysterious places more accessible to everyone, and there’s no more emotive, exciting example of that than revealing what’s beneath the waters of Loch Ness,” says Alex Hesz, director of digital at adam&eveDDB.


Source: Adweek

Why it’s hot

One of the key benefits of Google Maps and Google Earth is to bring knowledge to the world — and this is an interesting next step. Piece by piece, lake by lake we will be able to access any area of the world at any time. Welcome to the age of the virtual explorer!

Google Invites Fans to Explore NBC’s American Odyssey

NBC has teamed up with Google to promote a new drama series called “American Odyssey” premiering on the network this Sunday. “Explore American Odyssey” launched this week with Google mapping out the cities and key locations from the show. Through this companion website, fans can learn about the show by discovering more about the characters and unlocking clues to the show’s mystery plot with exclusive access to bonus content.



Read more via Variety.

Why It’s Hot: It appears that NBC is amping up its partnerships to reach wider audiences – something we may see other networks and brands doing more for upcoming projects. For example, just last week NBC Universal and WWE unveiled a powerful comprehensive brand campaign to air across all of both brands’ networks and platforms, with a social component as well.

With so many options of shows and ways to view them, it’s no wonder we’re seeing more and more integration of these brands or TV shows/films with major media players and social platforms in order to better engage viewers. This past fall, we saw the Gone Girl on Pinterest to promote that film before its release. Perhaps these partnerships between brands and companies, from broadcast networks to technology giants, is something we’ll continue to see more of in order to more effectively reach and engage massive audiences.

Move Over, Foursquare: Google Has The Answers

While apps like Foursquare offer recommendations on popular eateries and attractions based on the user’s location, Google takes this a step further and shows that perhaps it really does have all of life’s answers.

Google is rolling out a new ‘Explore’ button on its Google Maps mobile app starting this week that will offer suggestions for where users should – and shouldn’t – go. When users want to discover their surrounding area, they can simply tap the new button at the bottom righthand corner of the app to get a glimpse of what’s around them. The results list is based on context, changing according to the time of day and weather – so there’s no more worrying about rain on your parade picnic in the park or showing up to a dinner restaurant in the morning with a craving for pancakes.


As usual when our technology offers us suggestions, Google makes sure to mention that users will get the best results when they sign in with location reporting and history turned on. The more information you provide, the better your experience will be.

Via NBC News

Why It’s Hot: Tech innovations frequently help make our lives easier, and the new Explore feature from Google Maps is no exception. Users no longer have to independently research an establishment’s business hours or navigate to the hourly weather forecast – now search results for “good place to eat” while exploring a new vacation spot will be filtered, and users will only see relevant, weather- and time-appropriate results. With technology constantly improving, surely it won’t be long before we have this feature on more location-based apps.

Google Maps ‘Time Machine’ Lets You Stroll the Streets of the Past

Ever wish you could travel back in time? A new feature on Google Maps Street View, rolling out worldwide this week, lets users zip through imagery dating back to Street View’s beginning in 2007. If you see a clock icon in the upper left corner of a Street View panorama, that means there is past imagery you can peruse. Just click the clock and a thumbnail of past images will appear. A timeline in the thumbnail allows you to move through history. When you see the period you want to explore, click it and the whole Street View will change. At that point, you have traveled through time, and can wander around in the past as you would in the current version.

Why It’s Hot

Even though we can only go back in time seven years, Google’s panoramic 360-degree views will allow you to see the construction of iconic landmarks, like the Freedom Tower, or how communities rebuilt themselves after a natural disaster or watch a neighborhood’s evolution. The update also lets you view Street View in different seasons and during the night as well. Previously, about 5 million miles worth of Street View imagery was available. As of today, with the time machine feature, you can find about 12 million miles worth of sidewalk-level, interactive photos to explore. The time machine will be available in almost every location where Street View is in operation. For major metro areas, there will be 20 or more “time slices” to check out, while for most locations, there will be two or three.

“This new feature can serve as a digital timeline of recent history,” Google writes. Right now, this feature is only available on the desktop, and eventually they hope to have it offered on mobile devices as well. Google has introduced us to the 4th dimension – time travel. You can explore the world today and yesterday, day and night, summer and winter.

Navigate Jacket guides you as you walk

Forget staring at Google Maps on your Android as you navigate to meet your friends at a restaurant.  Fact is that pedestrian accidents are on the rise as people are looking at their smartphones as they walk around. Now, a high-tech jacket from Wearable Experiments has been developed to help people keep their heads up so they don’t have to look at maps as they walk around. Called the Navigate Jacket and introduced at SXSW, it vibrates through sewn-in sensors that communicate via Bluetooth with your phone to tell you when to turn left, turn right, etc.

Why It’s Hot

Wearable clothing is not only cool technology, but can also provide practical functionality.  Consider the possibilities for fire fighters navigating a burning building or rescue workers locating lost hikers, and you realize the benefits of this jacket and other wearable technollogy go far beyond making a fashion statement.


New findery app takes social to hyperlocal

The Fusion of Google Maps, Yelp, Instagram and Facebook, all in one hyperlocal sharing app–new from Flickr

Findery takes a hyperlocal approach to social discovery. Users pin notes, which can be public or private, to locations on a map. Notes consist of everything from pics and tips, to trivia, to personal memos about an individual’s personal experience at that location.

“Every place has a story, or a thousand stories,” Fake said in a statement. “Findery brings places to life, be they where you stand or where you hope to go.”

Maps are at the heart of the app. Upon opening the app, users are greeted with a series of “notemaps,” themed collections of notes from users about nearby locations. Users can also slide over to the map view to see a map of their current location and track all of the notes people have about nearby places.



Why it’s Hot

Another barrier has been broken down toward unifying communities of people sharing experiences at the hyper-local level. Now instead of flipping between yelp listings, or checking reviews among your friends, or searching on google maps or TripAdvisor–this interface marries all of them together.  Great tool for marketers to capitalize on areas of interest around certain areas in locations of interest, by zeroing in on what users write, concentrations of posts and commonalities around certain areas–e.g. best places for moms to take kids, etc.