Not content with recent advancements in chat AI, tech giant Google is also making waves with the release to developers of the technology behind Google Maps’ immersive view. Blending established map data and real-time conditions, this immersive view is looking to bring a new generation to mapping, with enormous implications for businesses that dip their toes into the water.
Google’s Immersive View
As stated on Google’s blog, immersive view combines existing Google data with powerful AI to simulate a realistic 3D environment. This includes imagery taken from Google Earth, which is then applied to Google Maps, and updated with imagery from Google Street View. Then touched up by human hands, these different approaches combined allow the generation of a full 3D space that is observable and navigable.
These environments then have traffic and weather information applied over top, giving a real-time indication of current conditions. Then traversable virtually, the immersive view essentially allows a user to experience a location before visiting in person. With the ability to change virtual weather conditions and time of day, the immersive system illustrates a real next step in computer-led mapping. Used by businesses, the technology could extend these possibilities further, both in real and virtual spaces.
Business Implementation of Immersive View
The simplest implementation of an immersive view would be as an extension of Google’s system. With the permission of a business, this could mean the use of a panoramic shot or shots of an interior to allow a virtual traveler to walk right in the front doors to see what would be waiting for them. If given enough detail, an immersive view could even let users check prices for elements like menus, and book seating.
More than just taking pictures, businesses would also need to update their ordering systems and real-time tracking to stay in sync with immersive functionality. This could mean adopting a new range of AI cameras and detection hardware to ensure accuracy, which could be an expensive and complicated procedure, especially in the first generation. Though businesses and apps like Grab have already taken the first steps here in terms of real-time updates, this is a drop in the bucket compared to what next-gen immersive tech could require.
Immersive wouldn’t just apply to physical business either, as it could also be implemented and combined with VR technology for virtual services to enhance existing offerings. Consider a modern online casino service like VegasSlotsOnline as an example. Without a physical establishment as a base, a casino like this could instead have full creative control over an immersive environment in offering games like slots and table games.
From here, physical components like live dealers could then be inserted, bringing another level of reality to remote players. Combined with the addition of bonuses like deposit matches and free spins, an immersive approach could further challenge traditional casino offerings.
Concerns of Safety
Though fully virtual spaces like online casinos would be exempt from security concerns, the same might not be true for real physical locations. Google Maps and street view have already been utilized by bad actors for planning crimes, and immersive view could extend avenues of investigation and attack. Without the need to physically examine a place first, security would become much more of an issue, and perpetrators could be more difficult to track.
Opening the Door to Users
Immersive view holds potential in a wide range of applications, but it does demonstrate a potential shortcoming in access, at least for now. Though it’s possible to utilize traditional browsing methods like viewing on a regular mobile phone to take part in Immersive systems, these don’t leverage everything Immersive View has to offer. To make the most of Google’s new tech, a VR headset would be required, and this technology is still lacking in general adoption.
Forecast for a 5.3% CAGR over 2023-2030, VR is becoming more popular, but not at an especially rapid rate. When compared to the rapid takeoff of the smartphone industry following the iPhone launch, VR expansion is practically static.
A large part of this is due to the optional nature of the devices, where traditional screen systems can accomplish what most users want well enough that the extra cost of VR can’t be justified. That said, a lack of availability might be addressed through smartphones, should the market turn back to already attempted and more viable solutions.
Smartphone adapter headsets for VR were once a hot and promising technology, as so effectively demonstrated by the Oculus Gear. This tech essentially acted as an enclosure for your phone rather than as a full device. With special software, a phone’s visual output could then adapt to the enclosure hardware to produce an effective VR image.
While not as a powerful as dedicated VR system, this approach was still vastly more cost-effective and will continue to grow more powerful alongside smartphones. Famous tech names like Jon Carmack even bet on this approach opening the door to mass adoption. Should a killer app help us return to this idea, projects like Google’s Immersive would have a much easier way into full-featured mainstream access.
As we enter the first generation of immersive mapping technology, it’s too early to tell what will stick and how early concerns might be addressed. With so much potential on the table, however, we expect this new system won’t go the way of Google’s famous technological graveyard. Immersive view is too useful a tool to pass up, both for residents and travelers, as humanity marches ever further into the virtual future.
Combined with the lowering costs and improving capabilities of virtual and augmented reality as we’ve covered at here before, immersive view could represent a way to explore that we might never experience directly. From visiting the pyramids to walking the Louvre, this extension of Google’s extensive mapping framework is more than just a convenience, it could be a real aid in improving how we live. By 2030, large portions of entire cities might be explorable this way, offering possibilities that could reshape huge portions of what we do and the activities we plan.