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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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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

Image for Representation.

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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Sundar Pichai Discusses Google Pixel's Future, COVID-19 Impact on Maps, Other Key Areas

Photo of Sundar Pichai, CEO, Google

Photo of Sundar Pichai, CEO, Google

In an interview with The Verge, Pichai candidly spoke about everything from the company’s future plans on pixel phones, hardware strategy to COVID-19 response.

  • News18.com
  • Last Updated: May 20, 2020, 3:29 PM IST

Google’s performance in the smartphone industry has been anything but stellar with its Pixel range failing to get the limelight, especially in terms of sales. However, despite the unsatisfying performance, Google is not ready to give up on it with CEO Sundar Pichai confirming that the company will continue to work on smartphone hardware. In a free-wheeling interview with The Verge, Pichai candidly spoke about everything from the company’s hardware strategy to the COVID-19 response.

“The last couple of years have been a major integration phase for us because we’ve combined our Google hardware efforts with Nest. We absorbed the mobile division of HTC. So it’s been a lot of stitching together. And we have a wide product portfolio, too. So it’s definitely been a building phase. We’re super committed to it for the long run,” Pichai said.

Pichai also revealed the fact that Google is facing problems with creating hardware and gave a synopsis on the company’s approach to hardware design. “Hardware is hard. And it definitely has components, which take real-time to get it right, thinking about underlying silicon or display or camera or any of those tacks. And so we are definitely investing in it, but that timeline. I think we’ve made a lot of progress,” Pichai said.

While Pichai appeared to sidestep The Verge’s question on the performance of the latest Pixel phones he did, however, mention that the smartphones have made a lot of progress since its inception. “Pixel 3A last year was one of our highest NPS-rated products ever, and definitely even benchmarked outside. So to me, it’s a clear indication we have made a lot of progress.”

Talking about how the Coronavirus pandemic has impacted Google Maps, Pichai didn’t divulge into any numbers but revealed there was a considerable drop-off, mainly because travel was restricted due to the COVID-19 lockdown all over the world. However, Pichai mentioned that things are slowly returning to normal as more users are using Google Maps for local information, services and other information.

Responding to a report that Google has cut back on diversity efforts in order to avoid conservative backlash, Pichai didn’t address the programs being cut but reiterated that diversity is a “foundational value” for Google. “Given the scale at which we build products and the fact we do it locally for our users, we are deeply committed to having that representation in our workforce. What we are doing in the company is constantly at our scale. We look at that first — see what works, what we can scale up better. All I can say is we probably have more resources invested in diversity now than at any point in our history as a company,” he said.

When asked about the company’s plans on both Google Meet and Google Chat, especially at a time when people need them more than ever, Pichai said that Google is scaling them up so that people at large can use them. “COVID has blurred the lines between consumer and enterprise, and people are using products in all kinds of contexts. And so definitely, we are using it as an opportunity to make Google Meet and Google Chat, scale it up and make it more available,” Pichai said.

Pichai also touched upon on Google’s efforts as the Coronavirus pandemic shows no signs of abating. Whether it’s helping people find crucial information, building an exposure-tracking system, or donating funds to curbing misinformation of the disease, Google has so far played an important role.

“It’s a big part. By now, we’ve committed over a billion dollars in various ways, be it grants to public health organizations, ad credits to small/medium businesses, and then working in each country through the official agencies’ direct loan programs to small/medium businesses as well. We have undertaken efforts on PPE. There’s the deep work we have done on ventilators out of Rick’s team. And obviously, our support for schools through products like Meet. We have provided Chromebooks. So it spans a wide variety of effort,” Pichai said.



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

Image for Representation.

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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Call of Duty Mobile Season 6 Goes Live on Android and iOS: New Maps, Game Modes and More

Call of Duty: Mobile on Thursday received a new update that brings the new Season 6 titled ‘Once Upon a Time in Rust’. The update with version 1.0.12 is live on Google Play Store and Apple App Store. It brings new maps, game modes, and Battle Pass content, along with additional changes, the company said in a statement.

The update is about 1.84GB in size on Android. On its official Reddit page, the developer has mentioned that the update will be rolled out in phases. Rust is a new map introduced in Season 6 but it was first seen in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Another new addition to the game is the new 1v1 Duel Mode which also comes with a brand new map called Saloon that will be available in mid-May.

The company has introduced Capture the Flag – Gold Edition. In this mode, players will not need to capture the flag, but a bountiful chest of gold. Another mode is ‘Kill Confirmed’. In this mode, one has to take out enemies in a team vs team except when an enemy is downed they drop a dog tag. There are several other changes including a new Event System, a Monthly Calendar, a Battle Royale Class called Poltergeist, and more.

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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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