Upgrades to Apple Maps were announced on Monday at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference: see coverage from AppleInsider, Engadget and TechCrunch, as well as the video of the keynote itself (the Maps section starts at 29:47).
The changes will be coming to iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey this fall. They include highly detailed city maps (for only a few cities at launch); a three-dimensional map for navigation that indicates, among other things, complex intersections; improved transit features such as bus route integration and next stop notifications; precise walking directions based on a scan of nearby buildings; and an interactive globe when zoomed out. (Note that not all of these features will be available on Intel Macs, which lack the Neural Engine in Apple’s own chips, nor on older iPhones or iPads with an A11 or earlier chip.)
The Weather app will also be getting temperature, precipitation and air quality maps (see TechCrunch coverage). And Italy and Australia were announced as the next countries to get Apple’s upgraded map layer.
Google Maps-related announcements at Google’s I/O 2021 keynote today include routing improvements to reduce hard braking, enhancements to Live View, expanding Google’s new detailed maps to 50 cities, identifying crowded areas, and tailoring map data to time of day and whether you’re travelling. This post takes a deeper dive on two of those upgrades. Coverage from the usual suspects: Engadget, The Verge.
Justin O’Beirne reports that the next expansion of Apple’s new maps will cover Spain and Portugal, making them the first non-English-speaking countries to receive the upgrade. The new maps are currently in testing; a small number of users may already be able to see them.
Last week Google announced “over 100 AI-powered improvements to Google Maps” would be coming this year; these include bringing Live View indoors, a new air quality map layer, eco-friendly routing, and support for curbside pickup in business listings.
Meanwhile, Apple Maps is now displaying airport COVID-19-related health measures based on data from Airports Council International: press release. [AppleInsider, MacRumors]
Crowdsourced incident reporting—a feature already available in Google Maps and Waze—is coming to Apple Maps: the beta release of iOS 14.5 enables users to report accidents, road hazards and speed checks, with Siri and CarPlay integration. More at CNet’s Roadshowand MacRumors, among others; the final, public release of iOS 14.5 should come out some time in the spring, I think.
The update also includes Look Around, and not just in a few locations. Elsewhere in the world, Look Around is being rolled out on a city-by-city basis; in Canada it’s far more comprehensive. How comprehensive? I live in a village of 1,600 people not far from Ottawa, and my house is on it. (Based on the state of our gardening, the imagery was taken sometime in 2019, either in late summer or early fall.) Major highways are also included, not just cities. Justin O’Beirne looks at the coverage areas.
Google announced earlier this month that their updated Street View app for Android—as an Apple user I had no idea that Street View was a separate app on Android—now supports user-contributed photos to Street View. “After you record your images and publish them via the Street View app, we automatically rotate, position and create a series of connected photos. We then place those connected images in the right place on Google Maps, so your new Street View can be found in the exact location where it was taken for others to see and explore.” The idea is to supplement Google’s imagery where it’s thin on the ground. This beta feature requires an ARCore-compatible Android device and is only available in a few areas for now: Toronto, New York, and Austin TX (presumably for testing purposes), as well as Costa Rica, Indonesia and Nigeria.
Last month it was reported that the X-Mode software development kit, used by many apps, was collecting and selling user location data, with the U.S. military among the buyers. In response, earlier this month both Apple and Google gave developers a deadline to remove X-Mode from their apps: seven days in Google’s case, fourteen in Apple’s. Apple found 100 apps that contained the code; X-Code claims 400 apps on all platforms, tracking 25 million devices in the U.S. and 40 million elsewhere. The Wall Street Journal story is behind a paywall; see The Verge and MacRumors for summaries.
Motherboard reported last week that the U.S. military was buying location data that originated, among other places, from Muslim prayer and dating apps. The Motherboard exposé details how it happened: how the location data supply chain works, and, for example, how data brokers pay app developers to incorporate their frameworks into apps so that user data can be harvested and sold to buyers like law enforcement and military contractors. Developers may not necessarily be aware of what they’re agreeing to when they accept those frameworks, but they don’t have to embed data harvesting algorithms in their apps either. [Daring Fireball, MetaFilter]
Google Maps has a Nazi problem, says Mike Shaughnessy: the service’s inadequate review moderation and its poor handling of memorials (whichit expects to act as businesses) provide an inadvertent platform “for Nazi veneration and Holocaust jokes.”
Google has added a splash of colour and detail to its larger-scale map layers, using a “color-mapping algorithmic technique” to assign colours to more natural features like forest cover and deserts. “First, we use computer vision to identify natural features from our satellite imagery, looking specifically at arid, icy, forested, and mountainous regions. We then analyze these features and assign them a range of colors on the HSV color model. For example, a densely covered forest can be classified as dark green, while an area of patchy shrubs could appear as a lighter shade of green.” Meanwhile, cities get more pedestrian data, such as crosswalks and sidewalks. [Engadget, The Verge]