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Google Expands Business Messages Feature in Maps and Search to Help Small Businesses

Image for Representation.

Image for Representation.

Business Messages will also be available on mobile websites so that a business can add the ability for customers to quickly “Message” right from their website.

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: June 26, 2020, 11:59 AM IST

Google has announced to expand Business Messages in Maps and Search to support all kinds of businesses connect directly with their customers. Business Messages will also be available on mobile websites so that a business can add the ability for customers to quickly “Message” right from their website and offer the same smart automated replies, paired with live agent connection, Google said in a statement on Thursday.

“Messaging has become such a valuable way to connect with customers that twice as many businesses are messaging via Google now, compared to last year,” the company informed. Business Messages provides brands a comprehensive messaging solution across Android devices, and through Maps on iOS.

Several organisations, including MyGov in India, were among the first to try the updated Business Messages experience to make customer care more effective and efficient, particularly during Covid-19. “MyGov, with partner Amplify.ai, is providing help and answering live questions from Indian citizens about hours, Covid-19 helplines, and ways to volunteer and donate, for more than 11,000 food and night shelters across India,” said Google.

The tech giant this month launched a new feature on Google Search, Assistant, and Maps for users in India to help them find information on Covid-19 testing centres near them. The search giant partnered with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and MyGov to provide the information on authorised testing labs. The Search, Assistant, and Maps currently feature 700 testing labs across 300 cities in India.

The feature is currently available in English and eight Indian languages including Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali, Gujarati, and Marathi. Business Messages, however, is currently available in English, with expanded coverage to other languages launching soon, said Google.


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Google Will Help You Find Covid-19 Testing Centres in India: Here is How to Use it

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Image for Representation.

Users will now see a new “Testing” tab on the search result page providing a list of nearby testing labs along with key information

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: June 12, 2020, 2:35 PM IST

Google on Friday announced the launch of a new feature on Google Search, Assistant, and Maps for users in India to help them find information on Covid-19 testing centres near them. The search giant has partnered with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and MyGov to provide the information on authorised testing labs.

The feature is currently available in English and eight Indian languages including Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali, Gujarati, and Marathi. According to the company, users will now see a new “Testing” tab on the search result page providing a list of nearby testing labs along with key information and guidance needed before using their services.

On Google Maps, when users search for keywords like “COVID testing” or “coronavirus testing” they will see a list of nearby testing labs, with a link to Google Search for the government-mandated requirements. Google said that the Search, Assistant, and Maps currently feature 700 testing labs across 300 cities and working with authorities to identify and add more testing labs located across the country. The company reiterates that it is important to follow the recommended guidelines that help determine testing eligibility before visiting.




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Amitabh Bachchan Could Soon Give You Voice Navigation on Google Maps

Amitabh Bachchan

Amitabh Bachchan

While Google has already approached Bachchan to be India’s voice for Google Maps, no contract has been signed yet, per the report.

  • News18.com
  • Last Updated: June 10, 2020, 5:35 PM IST

Amitabh Bachchan needs to special introduction as he has been one of the biggest and most popular Bollywood actors in India. Renowned for his majestic baritone voice, Bachchan has played the role of a narrator in many films, including the Oscar-winning documentary ‘March of the Penguins’ way back in 2005. Now, if a report from Mid-Day is to be believed, then the 77-year-old veteran star has been approached by Google as its choice for giving voice directions in Google Maps. However, no official contract has been signed, per the report.

According to the report, Google has offered Bachchan an exorbitant amount for the following task and if the actor decides to accept it, he will have to record his voice from home, to maintain social distancing norms pertaining to the Covid-19 crisis. Google Maps currently features New York-based entertainer Karen Jacobsen’s voice in the Google Maps. Interestingly, Jacobsen is also the voice of Apple’s Siri voice assistant. Therefore, it remains to be seen, if Bachchan lends his instantly-recognisable voice only for the Hindi voice of the application and in English as well.

However, this is not the first time Google has joined hands with a Bollywood celebrity to be the voice navigator on Google Maps. In 2018, Yash Raj Films and Google joined hands to use Aamir Khan’s character, Firangi from ‘Thugs of Hindostan’ for the Google Maps app.

Recently, Google announced a new feature on Maps that notifies users about Covid-19 travel restrictions so they plan their trips in a better way by following the social distancing norms. Users will also be alerted about places that are crowded which include public transports, medical checkpoints and other important places.




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Google Maps Will Tell You About Covid-19 Travel Related Restrictions: Here is How

Google has announced new features on its Maps that will now alert users about Covid-19 related travel restrictions to help them plan their trips in a better way by maintaining social distancing norms. Users will also be notified about places that are crowded which include public transports, medical checkpoints and other important places. The company said that this new feature will help avoid going to crowded places. Interestingly, the new feature also comes at a time when governments around the world are making a calibrated exit from the Covid-19 lockdown and reopening cities as well.

Talking about how this new feature works, when users will look for public transit directions, they will receive “relevant alerts” from transit agencies about the precautions they need to take while travelling, for instance, wearing a face mask. Furthermore, if a public transit line is temporarily closed or remains suspended, users will ger a heads-up about that as well.

“Getting from A to B can be more complicated these days. Because of COVID-19, it’s increasingly important to know how crowded a train station might be at a particular time or whether the bus is running on a limited schedule. Having this information before and during your trip is critical for both essential workers who need to safely navigate to work and will become more important for everyone as countries around the world begin to reopen,” Ramesh Nagarajan, product management director at Google Maps, said in a blog post.

The feature will be made available to both Android and iOS users. It will be rolled out in countries including Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, France, India, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Thailand, United Kingdom and the US, Nagarajan said in the blog post. Google Maps will share relevant information from local transit agencies when users look for directions that are likely to be restricted due to COVID-19.

“When you look up public transit directions for a trip that is likely to be affected by COVID-19 restrictions, we’ll show relevant alerts from local transit agencies. These alerts can help you prepare accordingly if government mandates impact transit services or require you to wear a mask on public transportation. Transit alerts are rolling out in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, France, India, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Thailand, United Kingdom and the U.S. where we have information from local transit agencies, with more coming soon,” the blog post read.

Besides, Google Maps is also introducing a driver alert feature to let users get notified about Covid-19 checkpoints and restrictions in the route when crossing national borders. According to Google, this feature will be first rolled out in Canada, Mexico and the US.



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Google Maps Will Now Allow Android Users To Share Their Location Using 'Plus Codes'

Google Maps Will Now Allow Android Users To Share Their Location Using 'Plus Codes'

A Plus Code is essentially a digital address and it’s derived from latitude and longitude coordinates. It can be generated for any location.

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: May 30, 2020, 2:49 PM IST

Google Maps app for Android has received a new update where users can share their locations using Plus Codes. Google Maps has the option to show Plus Codes since August 2015. The new change, however, is aimed to expand Plus Codes usage by allowing users to easily share their locations.

A Plus Code is essentially a digital address and it’s derived from latitude and longitude coordinates. It can be generated for any location. “The technology to generate Plus Codes is also open source, which means the technology is easy and free to use, so anyone can see how the technology works and develop their own applications for any use case,” David Martin, Director of Program Management, Google Maps, said in a statement on Friday.

Users will be able to tap on the blue dot representing their current location and get a Plus Code for it. Alternatively, they can long tap on a spot to put a pin on it and get a code for that.

Alongside the Plus Code, the application will also show other options including options to see nearby places, share your location and save your parking. Once the app shows the Plus Code on the screen, one will be able to copy it just by tapping on it. Now, one will be able to share it among contacts by pasting it on apps like WhatsApp, Messages and more.




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Google Maps Will Now Show You Wheelchair Friendly Locations

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Image for Representation.

The ‘Accessible Places’ feature is rolling out for Google Maps users in Australia, Japan, the UK and the US, with support for additional countries on the way

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: May 22, 2020, 11:23 AM IST

Google has announced that people can now turn on an “Accessible Places” feature to have wheelchair accessibility information more prominently displayed in Google Maps. When ‘Accessible Places’ is switched on, a wheelchair icon would indicate an accessible entrance, and people would be able to see if a place has accessible seating, restrooms or parking. The ‘Accessible Places’ feature is rolling out for Google Maps users in Australia, Japan, the UK and the US, with support for additional countries on the way. “If it’s confirmed that a place does not have an accessible entrance, we’ll show that information on Maps as well,” Google said on the occasion of Global Accessibility Awareness Day.

There are at least 130 million wheelchair users worldwide. Today, Google Maps has wheelchair accessibility information for more than 15 million places around the world. “That number has more than doubled since 2017 thanks to the dedication of more than 120 million Local Guides and others who’ve responded to our call to share accessibility information,” said the company. In total, this community has contributed more than 500 million wheelchair accessibility updates to Google Maps.

Store owners have also helped, using Google My Business to add accessibility information for their business profiles to help users needing stair-free access find them on Google Maps and Search. “In this time of COVID-19, it’s especially important to know before you go so that you won’t be stranded outside that pharmacy, grocery or restaurant,” said Google.

To get wheelchair accessibility information more prominently displayed in Google Maps, update the app to the latest version, go to Settings, select “Accessibility,” and turn on “Accessible Places.” The feature is available on both Android and iOS. Google said it is rolling out an update that allows people using iOS devices to more easily contribute accessibility information, joining the millions of Android users who have been sharing this type of information on Maps.




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How to Find List and Working Hours of Pharmacies and Chemists Nearby on Google Maps

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Image for Representation.

With a little bit of research, you can find out which chemist keeps their shop open for how long and what the other options available in your vicinity are.

  • Trending Desk
  • Last Updated: May 13, 2020, 8:05 PM IST

Tired of waiting in line at the nearby chemist shops and pharmacies? With social distancing a necessary practice nowadays, it is even more important for people to step out only for essential activities and maintain a minimum distance from everybody on the street.

However, a little bit of planning can help you resolve an otherwise taxing affair. Most of the pharmacies have their locations marked on Google Maps. With a little bit of research, you can find out which chemist keeps their shops open for how long, and what other options are available in your vicinity.

Here are the simple steps one needs to follow:

  1. Open Google Maps app on your phone or go the site on your computer or laptop
  2. The map of your current location will appear (make sure you have location tracking enabled)
  3. Type in ‘pharmacy’ or ‘chemists’ in the search pad and select ‘search’
  4. A number of pharmacies will appear on the left-hand panel. The distance of the store, rating is given by customers as well as direction to the store will be prescribed
  5. You can click on the individual pharmacy for further information
  6. If any pharmacy has a website, you can directly get the information from the shop
  7. Once you select a particular pharmacy, you can check the directions, save the shop for later, send the location to your phone or share the address with anyone
  8. One can find out the timings by contacting the listed phone number
  9. The particular pharmacy is also likely to inform the opening duration of the store
  10. If you have any additional information regarding any missing details, you can edit those in on the Google Maps

With these easy to follow options, you can not only find out destination stores for chemists and groceries that are open in your area, but also find their working hours, so that you step out only when it is absolutely necessary for you. Google Maps is a powerful tool, and in times of Covid-19, can make for a great software to help you stay updated regarding the status of stores in your vicinity.




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Google Asks Huawei Users Not to Sideload their Apps on Uncertified Devices

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(Image: AFP Relaxnews)

Image for Representation
(Image: AFP Relaxnews)

Since being placed on the Entity List, Google’s apps and services, Gmail, Maps, and the Play Store among others, can’t be accessed by Huawei devices.

  • AFP Relaxnews
  • Last Updated: February 25, 2020, 5:06 PM IST
  • Edited by: Chhavianshika Singh

Over the weekend, Google published an article to the Android Help Center written specifically to answer the frequently asked questions about how the company’s apps and services will work on Huawei devices in the wake of its US blacklisting. On Saturday, Google finally addressed head-on how users can expect their Android apps and services to work on Huawei devices. In an article published on the company’s Android Help forum outlining how the Huawei US blacklisting, which began on May 16 last year, has affected the company while steering clear of any controversial assertions.

Like with all US companies, Huawei being placed on the Entity List prohibited Google from working with the Chinese tech manufacturer; the company explains that “US law currently allows Google to only work with Huawei on device-models available to the public on or before May 16, 2019.” After that date, not only was Google forced to cease all hardware development underway with the company, but also Google’s apps and services, Gmail, Maps, and the Play Store among others, had been banned from being downloaded. Now the company is warning Huawei phone owners to not even sideload these applications.

This is because after May 16, Google was no longer able to test the security of Huawei devices, so phones launched after said date are deemed as “uncertified” and “will not be able to utilize Google’s apps and services.” Google cannot confirm that sideloaded apps will work reliably or securely. For users unsure if their phone is certified or not, they can open up the Play Store app on their device, go into the settings menu and reference check their phone model under “Play Protect certification.”

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This Man's Epic Proposal Landed on Google Maps; World Can Relax, Marriage is in June

A google maps screen grab showing the coenfield that spells out 'Will You Marry Me' in German
(Image: Google Maps Screen Grab)

A google maps screen grab showing the coenfield that spells out ‘Will You Marry Me’ in German
(Image: Google Maps Screen Grab)

A 32-year-old part-time German farmer used a machine to plant a field of corn in such a way that the gaps spelt out the words ‘Do you want to marry me?’

  • Associated Press
  • Last Updated: February 13, 2020, 1:58 PM IST
  • Edited by: Chhavianshika Singh

A German man’s marriage proposal got a bigger audience than he had planned after it showed up on an aerial picture used by Google Maps. The German news agency DPA reported that 32-year-old part-time farmer Steffen Schwarz used a machine to plant a field of corn in such a way that the gaps spelt out the words “Do you want to marry me?” Schwarz says he got his girlfriend to fly a drone over the field last May in Huettenberg, central Germany, revealing the romantic message. She said yes.

He told DPA he hadn’t intended or expected the image to appear on Google’s popular mapping service until an aunt in Canada pointed it out to him. Schwarz and his fiancee plan to marry in June.

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Google Reacts to 99 Phones 'Maps Hack': Such Creative Uses Help Us Improve Services

Whether via car or cart or camel, we love seeing creative uses of Google Maps as it helps us make maps work better over time

Google Reacts to 99 Phones 'Maps Hack': Such Creative Uses Help Us Improve Services
Image: 9to5 Google

We recently reported about a Berlin-based artist who duped Google Maps by dragging 99 second-hand phones on a cart through various streets and roads. While he didn’t actually create any traffic, but the result was that Google Maps’ servers interpreted this as traffic congestion thereby showing the same to people using the service. The ‘fake’ traffic made drivers avoid those roads and streets, which were actually empty.

Now, Google has given a response regarding the ‘experiment’ and agreed that a large number of devices running Maps in a single place, is proof of a traffic jam. However, Google went on to say that this experiment was something that was rare and a very specific case that took advantage of this scenario.

Here’s the complete statement a Google spokesperson gave to 9to5Google:

“Whether via car or cart or camel, we love seeing creative uses of Google Maps as it helps us make maps work better over time.

Traffic data in Google Maps is refreshed continuously thanks to information from a variety of sources, including aggregated anonymized data from people who have location services turned on and contributions from the Google Maps community. We’ve launched the ability to distinguish between cars and motorcycles in several countries including India, Indonesia and Egypt, though we haven’t quite cracked traveling by wagon. We appreciate seeing creative uses of Google Maps like this as it helps us make maps work better over time.”

The statement basically hints that the company does use a case like this to improve traffic data on Google Maps. The search giant also said that it continuously refreshes its systems by referring a variety of sources to provide the most “comprehensive and accurate maps possible.”

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