With its latest Google Maps update, Google has made maps fun again. Its newly announced Immersive View uses clever AI and Google's enormous image library to deliver a Street View-style experience for indoor spaces. It's like Apple's Flyover mode, except in addition to flying over you can fly in and fly around inside. It's brilliant: it's like you have your own personal drone, enabling you to get a drone's eye view of restaurants, malls and more.
Here's Google's gif of the feature in action.
Immersive maps aren't just pretty. They're pretty useful too
This isn't tech for the sake of it. Google wants Maps to give you all the information you need, from what a place looks like at different times of the day to what a restaurant, venue or transport hub looks like inside. It's a supercharged Street View, bringing places to life in ways that we'll soon wonder how we managed without.
Here's another gif from Google giving you a better idea of what you'll experience.
Impressive, isn't it? Inevitably it's going to be a while before Immersive View makes its way to every neighbourhood, so this year's cities are LA, London, New York, San Francisco and Tokyo; more cities will then be added over time. That's not a surprise: the amount of data this involves is staggering, so it'll probably be some time before you can see the inside of my local pub. While the images look like drone footage, they're actually generated from lots and lots of static photos.
The good news is that the new feature is coming to pretty much everybody. Google says it'll "work on just about any phone and device". It'll be interesting to see how this feature ends up being used: it'd be a pretty great educational tool as well as a travel one. Throw augmented or virtual reality into the mix and things start getting really interesting indeed.