AI is making Google Maps more immersive with realistic 3D buildings

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Immersive View makes Google Maps show detailed 3D models of buildings in some cities; there is also a mode that finds useful places quickly.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is on the rise because of systems like ChatGPT. But let’s remember that the concept has been around for years, including on Google services. In this sense, the company used this Wednesday (8) to announce interesting news from Google Maps . It starts with Immersive View , which uses AI to assemble 3D buildings.

Introduced in 2022, the idea of ​​Immersive View is to allow you to explore an area on the map as if you were flying over or walking around the place. To some extent, this is a blend of the Google Earth and Street View experience.

If you use Google Earth, you may have already seen that, in certain places, the tool recreates buildings in three-dimensional models. It’s a way to make images captured by satellite more realistic.

Immersive View follows the same principle, but in an incremental way. The 3D building models are even more realistic and the aerial images can display additional information, such as the climate or the occupancy level of a place.

To that end, Google has been using its advances in artificial intelligence and computer vision to merge billions of aerial Street View images. The result is a very accurate digital model of the visualized building.

Google Maps Immersive View (Image: Reproduction/Google)
Google Maps Immersive View (Image: Reproduction/Google)

The effect is not just aesthetic.

The idea is not just to make the image more beautiful. A better constructed model delivers revealing details to the user. Google gives an example:

Immersive View can be used for things like planning trips to museums, parks or activities, allowing users to virtually fly over buildings to locate entrances, check surrounding traffic or parking, and view areas that tend to attract the most people.

Still according to Google , the feature also offers a slider that allows the user to view the location at different times or weather conditions.

In many buildings, there are also three-dimensional models of the interior. Thus, you can know, for example, if the internal environment of a restaurant is cozy.

The results are quite realistic indeed. Google says that to achieve this, Immersive View transforms photos into 3D models using neural radiance fields (NeRF). This is an AI technique that generates a three-dimensional image by mapping colors and light from photos taken from different angles.

It’s just a shame the immersive view doesn’t cover many cities yet. For now, the feature only works with London, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Tokyo.

Among the next cities to be contemplated by Immersive View are Amsterdam, Dublin, Florence and Venice.

Immersive View inside a restaurant (image: reproduction/Google)
Immersive View inside a restaurant (image: reproduction/Google)

Live View to find useful locations

Live View already works with the cities of London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris, San Francisco and Tokyo. Soon, the feature will be expanded to work in cities such as Barcelona, ​​Dublin and Madrid. The idea is to allow you to find specific equipment or locations around you.

Suppose you are on a trip and need to find an ATM or the nearest train station. Live View uses artificial intelligence and augmented reality to help you with this.

Live View on Google Maps (Image: Reproduction/Google)
Live View on Google Maps (Image: Reproduction/Google)

Just open Google Maps and point the cell phone to the street and the service will show what the places viewed offer. For example, if you’re looking for a restaurant, it will show which of the commercial points in the place are characterized as such.

Visual cues can also be used to show how to get to taxi ranks, ATMs and more.

An interesting detail is that Live View can be used indoors. In the coming months, Google will roll out the feature to over a thousand airports, including those in São Paulo.

Facilities for electric cars

Google Maps also received features to make life easier for electric vehicle owners. From now on, it will be possible to use the service to locate charging stations more easily.

For a trip, for example, it is important to map the charging points in order to prevent the vehicle from running out of energy in the middle of the road. Google Maps will be able to do this for the driver.

Car charging points on Google Maps (image: disclosure/Google)
Car charging points on Google Maps (image: disclosure/Google)

Another related feature is the ability to filter the search for charging stations based on the capacity offered. For example, the user can ask Maps to display only points that offer levels from 150 to 350 kW.

The problem is that, at least for now, these attributes are only available for certain electric vehicles that bring Google Maps on their dashboard. Among them are Volvo, GM and Renault models marketed in the United States.

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