Today at a SXSW talk, Google VP Marissa Mayer took the stage to talk about location — mobile location, in particular. The theme isn’t a surprise since Mayer recently shifted her role from leading Google’s search team to heading their local efforts. Her talk was mostly an overview/demo of Google’s recent product launches, but it did include some new stats.
- Mayer revealed that 40% of Google Maps usage is mobile. And Christmas and New Years day had mobile usage of Maps surpass the desktop — which is a first for Google products. Google Maps now has 150 million mobile users. To put that in context, Maps for mobile had 100 million users in August of last year.
- Next, the local team showed off the current version of Google Maps, which uses vectors to render maps. Because these vectors take up 1/100 of the size of the old tile system, they can be cached, and can include 3D representations of buildings.
- Next up: Google Maps Navigation, the GPS feature included on Android phones. Users drive 12 billion miles a year with Google Maps Navigation. Navigation recently launched a feature that automatically routes people around traffic — which is saving users a total of 2 years per day in time that would have been spent in traffic.
- In, November Google launched Google Hotpot. There are now 3 million ratings in Google Hotpot which have been submitted by users
- Mayer then shifted to talk about what we’ll see in the future. She specifically mentioned Layar — “a digital layer on top of reality”. But she says we can go further than that. “Contextual discovery is taking your location and a little context” — if you had a photo of a bird, how would you convey that bird to a search engine, other than typing something like “bird with a white head and black body”? In the future, you’ll be able to use something like Google Goggles to just upload that snapshot as your query.
- Mayer also discussed how Maps could get smarter, using context to help you become more efficient. For example, if you had a flight to catch, Maps could look at your schedule to see when your flight was, then analyze traffic information and weather to help you figure out exactly when you should leave.
- Asked about whether it’s fair for Yelp and TripAdvisor to be included as part of Google’s local results, Mayer pointed out that they send a lot of traffic to these sites. “Would you let them use your review in their databases?” Mayer: Yes.
- Favorite non-Google products? Depends if you’re talking technology… If it’s anything then it’s my watch, which I got as an intern in Switzerland. It’s an Omega.. they don’t make it any more. As a UI/Design person I was thinking about exactly how I wanted the numbers laid out, etc.
- Are local offers associated with Latitude check-ins a test? Yes, it’s just a test. Released check-ins in Latitude about a month, wanted to incent users to check-in.
- With Google moving onto phone should we expect Google to move more into physical world? A: I’d argue that Android and a lot of other things we talked about today are trying to tie Google into the physical world.
- What is Google doing indoors? There are challenges that have to do with strength of signal, accuracy of GPS. We do see value in helping people get around inside a corporate campus etc. Some things need to change in tech to do that well.
- Are there plans for a better Maps for iPhone? We’d like there to be… We like being the default provider but we’d like to get some of these updates out to a broader audience. That’s still a debate/question we’re considering