Last week Google unveiled a new version of Google Maps, which includes native Google Earth support without the need for a plugin. One of the other big pieces Google is working to include is a map that is customized specifically for each person. As TechCrunch shared, the idea was similar to drawing a map on a napkin:
When you draw a map on a napkin, you are automatically filtering out the most important information, and doing it with your specific audience in mind. The result is a simplified map, that involves maybe a few major routes, as well as smaller roads, and a prioritization that doesn’t necessarily reflect how important a road is to the general population.
The way Google is making it happen is quite amazing:
First, for a specific location the new Maps algorithm will analyze the entire set of people looking for directions in that area, and then highlight the routes that come up most often. Then from that subset they’ll focus in even further and weigh more vs. less important routes, based again on aggregated user data. They can see which roads are more popular, and then pop those out vs. the less important ones. Finally the less important ones are cut away, and you’re left with something resembling the hand-written map.
That then informs the UI rendering of the Map itself, which still retains the street markers for all surrounding routes. Lines along routes important to getting there are made bold and lines on less important streets are thinned out, but not removed in case some users still require that information. It’s about drawing attention and changing perspective, not eliminating something altogether.
While this approach requires amazing levels of computing power from Google, it keeps the impact on end user’s computers even lower than past versions, since less data needs to be sent out.
It was an impressive and informative talk, and I highly recommend you check out the full article on TechCrunch to learn more.