When Google talks, people listen. That is why 3,000 people crowded into a ballroom on the first day of SXSW to hear Marissa Mayer, Google's vice president of consumer services, give her keynote. Her talk focused mostly on Google Maps for Mobile, and didn't do much more than outline the new features on the service. Even so, it should give serious pause to all of the companies currently offering location-based services, from Yelp to Foursquare. And it should give dedicated GPS vendors nightmares.
Google Mobile for Maps recently hit more than 150 million users, adding more than 50 million users since last summer. "Forty percent of all Maps usage is mobile," Mayer said. In fact, there have been days this year where mobile usage was actually greater than the desktop usage for the application.
Google Maps has always had driving directions, but by adding Street View and turn-by-turn navigation, it is fast becoming the go-to source for directions. "People drive more than 35 million miles a day while being assisted by Google Maps Navigation," Mayer said.
And those directions are becoming much more dynamic. The Route Around feature, for example, presents users with three routes to a destination and then overlays current traffic patterns. Users can select the route with the least traffic; Google said recently that Android users have the option to be automatically routed around traffic jams. This kind of real-time traffic advice is something for which GPS vendors like Garmin and Magellan traditionally charge users a monthly fee—Google offers it for free.
According to Mayer, the Route Around feature saves users two years of drive time every day, or about 12 million miles per year.
Google said Monday that it is expanding the reach of its Street View mapping program beyond the road and into various tourist attractions, thanks to its off-road "trike."
Google has now added Street View access to attractions in France, Ireland, and the United States. That includes France's Château de Chenonceaux in Civray-de-Touraine, the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin, as well as the gardens at the San Diego Art Institute and several spots in San Diego's Balboa Park.
Google normally collects its Street View images by attaching its equipment to the roofs of Google-owned vehicles that drive up and down public streets capturing 360-degree images. In 2009, Google introduced the trike - "a three-wheeled tricycle in a device reminiscent of an ice cream cart [that] lets us reach areas not accessible by car, such as hiking trails, biking trails and college campuses, just to name a few," Google said at the time.
Google said Monday that private property owners can join its partner program if they want to have their location included in Street View.
In the crowded world of location apps like Foursquare and Facebook Places, Google Latitude aimed to differentiate itself from the rest of the pack. Unlike the others which center around checking into places by tapping an icon, Latitude always tracked where you were in real-time, without any user interaction needed. Then it would share your whereabouts with your friends as you moved around. Thing is, people like checking in. So Google went ahead and added the ability to check in on Latitude, which will allow more flexibility for users of the app. A more interesting feature in Latitude is you can even choose to be automatically checked into locations, which sounds fairly ridiculous given how close many spots are to each other.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be guided to your destination via the dulcet-tones of James Earl Jones breathing through a ventilator? If so, then Tom Tom’s announcement of their release of Star Wars voices for their GPS nav systems should make your day, and if not, then you should probably stop reading this right now because you are dead inside. Beginning this month Tom Tom is making one new Star Wars voice available for purchase through August. Following the first available voice, Darth Vader, June will see the release of C-3P0, July will be Yoda, and finally Han Solo will wrap up what will be remembered as The Summer of GPS Nerdyness. For the sake of entertainment, someone should come up with an R2D2 mod, available in September. I would buy it just so that I could get in witty, one-sided conversations with my car during my long road-trips to comic conventions and film festivals by myself. God, I am so alone…
Newegg has a nice promo code sale on the Garmin nuvi 255W GPS device. The nuvi 255W sports a 4.3-inch display with text-to-speech. It typically sells for $179.99, but Newegg has them on sale for just $99.99, a savings of $80. Definitely not something to shy away from. Garmin puts a one-year warranty on these GPS units as well. You can pick up the Garmin nuvi 255W from Newegg for $169.99 now.
As always, you can find all sorts of Newegg promo codes and deals on our forums.
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Newegg has a nice promo code sale on the Garmin nuvi 780 GPS device, which includes 9 months of MSN Direct service thrown in at no extra charge, as well as a free case. If you’re unfamiliar, the nuvi 780 is a pocket-sized GPS with a 4.3-inch touchscreen display. MSN Direct gives you up-to-the-minute traffic details, so that the nuvi 780 can take that into consideration when planning your route. The nuvi 780 also has Bluetooth built-in, along with an FM transmitter, and you can even use it as a hands-free speakerphone. You can pick up the Garmin nuvi 780 from Newegg for $169.99.
As always, you can find all sorts of Newegg promo codes and deals on our forums.
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Navteq and their parent company Nokia believe that LBS or Location Based Services are going to be a $7 billion dollar industry by 2013. This is due to an increase of mobile connected devices and their ability to receive targeted advertisements when they are near a specific location.
Navteq currently has 80 people globally in their sales force, working with mobile operators as well as smaller application developers to help sell the data that they collect about locations. They warehouse this information by deploying “data collection trucks” which have high definition cameras mounted on the rooftop and drive most all of the major cities roads . These cameras take photos and collect other data such as elevation as they drive through the streets. Company spokesman and presenter Shawn Gunn said future unknown applications will leverage this. To seed such innovation, Navteq has a location based challenge that they run annually and several augmented reality projects are frequently presented from that.
Katheryn started off the session giving us geo location coordinates that only a machine would love. Her followup to this was the context matters; our location around a place and who is around that space with us. There is also excitement around discovery with geo. An example could be geocache games which created back in the old old black and white LCD “latitude and longitude” GPS units and have worked their way into the App stores of the iPhone and Android handsets.
Although location is in its infancy, Foursquare has opened their APIs and sites like gatsby.com are using location data + user preferences to send SMS messages to those who are in proximity with one another and could potentially benefit in meeting up in real life. While this leads to privacy issues, it is opt-in and could let “regular strangers” connect and communicate in ways that they might night work up the courage to in the physical world.
Need a reason to chuck your Garmin/Tom-Tom, etc. out of your car other than ‘has stupid name and labels me as a poor-driving tourist wherever I go’? Well wait no longer, avid reader: today Alpine announced a strategic partnership with the Finnish cel phone giant, Nokia, to fully integrate smartphones into car infotainment systems. While I was surprised that ‘infotainment’ was actually a word, I was more surprised that this type of alliance hasn’t been made sooner. Not only are these two electronics giants looking to elbow in to the lucrative GPS/Nav market, but they are also bringing a few bells and whistles of their own, namely widgets that can monitor fuel levels and direct you to the nearest and cheapest gas station. Might as well go ahead and chuck that gas gauge now, Chachi, ‘cause you’re not going to need it anymore; welcome to the future, only 48 years after your grandpa thought he’d have a flying car.
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Plan on being in the car with the little ones on Christmas Eve? If so, are you an OnStar subscriber? Then you’ll want to hit that blue OnStar button and ask for a Santa update, because OnStar is teaming up with NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) to keep tabs on Santa’s location as all times through the evening. Oh, what’s that? You find that to be almost as ridiculous as the Necky?
Hey, we agree, but let’s not let the silliness of this promotion get in the way of…no, you’re right. It’s silly. Silly enough that we want to try it.