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AI

Google is using AI to update business hours that are out of date on Google Maps

Google has shared how it’s using artificial intelligence, including its restaurant-calling Duplex tech, to try and keep business hours up to date on Google Maps. The company says that if it is confident enough in the AI’s prediction of what a business’s hours should be, it will update the information in Maps.

In a blog post, Google outlines the various factors its AI analyzes to determine whether it should do these updates. First, it looks at when the business profile was last updated, other similar shops’ hours, and Popular Times data to decide how likely it is that the hours are incorrect. For example: if Google sees that a lot of people visit the shop when it’s supposedly closed, that may be a red flag.

Google’s post says that its AI looks at even more data if it determines the hours should be updated. It’ll take into account information from the business’s website and can even scrape street view images (which may show business hours signs) to try and figure out when the business is open. Google says it’ll also check with actual humans, including Google Maps users and business owners, to verify the AI’s predictions — the company says it will even use Duplex in some countries to ask businesses about their hours directly.

Google spokesperson Genevieve Park told The Verge that Google will “only publish business hours when we have a high degree of confidence that they’re accurate.” If the AI thinks the hours may be incorrect but doesn’t have a solid prediction, it adds a notice that the hours may have changed.

Google tries to warn users of potentially inaccurate info, even if it can’t provide the accurate information itself.
Image: Google

Park also said that Google doesn’t explicitly tell users when hours were updated by its AI and explained that AI is used pretty much everywhere else in Google Maps. It seems like Google’s pretty bullish on its AI-driven approach. In its post, the company says it’s “on track to update the hours for over 20 million businesses around the globe in the next six months.”

Google also says it’s piloting another use of AI in Maps to help keep speed limits up to date. In the US, it’ll try to see if its partners have taken images of stretches of road that have speed limit signs and will have AI help its operations team identify the sign and the speed limit posted on it.

While it’s no surprise that Google’s using AI for these problems, it is interesting to see how many interlocking systems are involved. There’s computer vision, pattern recognition in location trends, and analyzing data about similar locations (which, of course, also involves figuring out what the similar locations even are), all to quietly try and keep up with how often businesses change their hours and make sure it knows the speed limit on certain stretches of road.

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AI

Google Maps’ Live View feature now offers more useful information about restaurants and businesses

Google announced a bunch of new features for Google Maps at its 2021 I/O developer conference today, including upgrades to its handy Live View tool, which helps you navigate the world through augmented reality.

Live View launched in beta in 2019, projecting walking directions through your camera’s viewfinder, and was rolled out to airports, transit stations, and malls earlier this year. Now, Live View will be accessible directly from Google Maps and will collate a lot of handy information, including how busy shops and restaurants are, recent reviews, and any uploaded photos.

It sounds particularly handy for exploring new destinations remotely. You can remotely browse that street full of interesting restaurants while on holiday, checking out which places are heaving, and even looking at some of the pictures of dishes.

Live View also now has better labeling for streets on complex intersections, says Google, and it will automatically orient you in relation to known locations (like your home or work).

That’s not all for Maps, though, and as Google’s Liz Reid said onstage, the company is on track to launch “more than 100 AI-driven improvements” for the app this year.

Other upgrades include a wider launch for the detailed street map view, which will be available in 50 new cities by the end of the year, including Berlin, São Paulo, Seattle, and Singapore; new “busyness” indicators for whole areas as opposed to specific shops and businesses; and selective highlighting of nearby businesses based on the time of day that you’re looking at Google Maps. So if you open up the app first thing in the morning, it’ll show you more places to grab a coffee than a candle-lit dinner for two.

A comparison of Google Maps’ before and after its more detailed street map view.
Image: Google

A more ambitious upgrade for Maps is using AI to identify and forecast “hard-braking events” when you’re in your car. Think of it like traffic warnings that navigation apps issue based on data collated from multiple users. But instead of just traffic jams, Google Maps will try to identify harder-to-define “situations that cause you to slam on the brakes, such as confusing lane changes or freeway exits.” The company says its tech has the ability to “eliminate over 100 million hard-braking events in routes driven with Google Maps each year” by giving users a head’s up when it knows such an event is on the horizon.

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Game

Pokémon Unite: All Maps and Battle Arenas

While Pokémon Unite‘s beta showed off multiple maps, only a few are playable at launch — and most are locked behind different game types and level requirements. Each one brings something new to the table, offering a unique twist on the typical MOBA formula.

Whether you’re fighting Drednaw on Remoat Island or playing a quick match in Auroma Park, coming out victorious means you’ll need to know the battlefield like the back of your hand. Here’s a look at every map we’ve seen in Pokémon Unite.

Further reading

Pokémon Unite map overview

Before taking a look at specific maps, it’s important to understand the standard features you’ll see regardless of where your match is taking place. Learning these basics is the key to victory in Pokémon Unite — even if you aren’t sure how a specific map works, anyone with knowledge of these areas can still contribute to the success of their team.

  • Base: This is where you’ll start each match and where you’ll be sent to respawn if you get knocked out. Your Base is located on one side of the map, with your opponent’s at the other.
  • Goal Zones: Bring your Aeos energy to these locations to score points.
  • Wild Pokémon: Located at various points on the map, Wild Pokémon grant you XP to level up and Aeos points that can be brought to Goal Zones.
  • Berries: These on-field items are automatically used when picked up, granting a variety of effects — such as health or movement speed boosts.
  • Tall Grass: Players can hide in tall grass to become invisible to enemy players. Use this to your advantage to ambush groups, but make sure the same doesn’t happen to you!

Remoat Island

Among the largest maps in Pokémon Unite, Remoat Island gives you plenty of room to spread out and find a spot all your own. All the action will eventually converge at the center, where you’ll find the Legendary Pit — which spawns Zapdos when two minutes remain in the match.

If you’d rather not mess with Zapdos, you can always head down to the southern portion of the map and battle Drednaw on the Beach. This is currently the standard map you’ll play in Ranked, so take your time to become familiar with its sprawling lanes, available berries, and various chokepoints.

  • Match size: 5v5
  • Match type: Ranked, Standard
  • Goal zones: Five per team
  • Beach area: Located at the southern tip of the map, the Beach Area is where you’ll find Drednaw — a powerful Pokémon that grants loads of Exp. Points and grants shields to your entire team when defeated.
  • Legendary Wild Pokémon: When two minutes are left on the timer, Zapdos will spawn in the center of the map. If your team manages to bring him down, you’ll gain 20 points, and enemy Goal Zones will be up for grabs.

Auroma Park

Auroma Park overview in Pokemon Unite.

Currently restricted to quick matches, Auroma Park is a smaller map built for short battles. You’ll find two Goal Zones — neither of which are assigned to a team — and you’re free to use either one to score points. You’ll also find some conveyor belts scattered across the map to speed up your travels. Understanding how to use these properly is the key to winning a round.

  • Match size: 3v3
  • Match type: Quick Match
  • Goal zones: Two total
  • Conveyor belts: Jump on these to quickly move across the map. You can also try pushing your opponents onto them to mess up their strategy.

Shivre City

Shivre City overview in Pokemon Unite.

It’s a tiny playing field, but it’ll be jam-packed with action during your 4v4 matches. This quick match map features one goal zone on either side, a few lanes with Wild Pokémon, and not much else. The biggest twist is that knocking out enemy Pokémon will actually increase your goal-scoring speed — turning Shivre City into a map where it’s often wise to ignore Wild Pokémon and go directly to your enemies.

According to the developer, this map will have you constantly “battling the enemy for control of the map and to score points.” With nowhere to escape, it’s hard to avoid the four enemy Pokémon wandering the cold streets of Shivre City.

  • Match size: 4v4
  • Match type: Quick Match
  • Goal zones: One per team
  • Wild Pokémon: Defeat Avalugg at the center of the map to create a barrier around your team’s Goal Zone.

Mer Stadium

Mer Stadium Pokemon Unite.

Mer Stadium is practically the same as Remoat Island, except it’s built for 4v4 matches. It’s a fairly low-frills battlefield, without many twists and turns to worry about. Just plug straight ahead through your lane, and coordinate with your team to rack up the points.

  • Match size: 4v4
  • Match type: Quick Match
  • Goal zones: Three per team
  • Legendary Wild Pokémon: No surprise here, but Zapdos is the Legendary Pokémon you’ll be facing off against. Defend them to earn bonus points and lower the defenses of your opponent’s Goal Zones.

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Game

Battlefield 2042 Will Feature Old, Fan-Favorite Maps

Even with its boosted maximum player count of 128, Battlefield 2042 will somehow manage to please longtime players of the franchise by including older fan-favorite maps. However, there aren’t any details on which maps players can look forward to or if they will be changed at all to fit Battlefield 2042.

Speaking during the EA Play Live 2021 Spotlight — Future of FPS, Oskar Gabrielson, the general manager of game developer Dice, revealed that old fan-favorite maps would be added to Battlefield 2042 alongside its new maps. Of course, a lot of the details on which maps will be added to the game haven’t been revealed.

The number of maps that could potentially fit 128 players is pretty small, including Bandar Desert from Battlefield 3 and Golmund Railway from Battlefield 4. That list could grow depending on Ripple Effect Studio’s approach to bringing maps over to the new game — if they’re expanded to fit more players, for example.

Gabrielson also gave teases about two more game modes that are coming to Battlefield 2042 along with All-Out War. One of them won’t be revealed until the EA Play Live event on July 22, but the other was briefly described during today’s Spotlight. The previously teased Hazard Zone is a new high-stakes game mode that will pit small squads of players against each other. However, Gabrielson stressed that it wasn’t a battle royale, leaving a lot of questions as to what players will be able to expect. According to Gabrielson, we’ll get more information about Hazard Zone later this year in the weeks leading up to Battlefield 2042‘s release.

Battlefield 2042 is set to release on October 22 for PlayStation 4, PS5, PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.

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Tech News

Google Maps and your business: Time to check it, now, today

It’s time to take a peek at how you and your business appear on Google Maps – and the rest of the internet. This isn’t just about having your own web page, and it’s not about updating your “under construction” Facebook group. It’s about seeing your business through the eyes of the everyday potential customer – and seeing how messy the internet can be here in 2021.

Google Maps

You do not need to pay any money to have accurate info about your business listed on Google Maps. There’s a Verify your business on Google page that makes it all very simple. Once you’ve gone through the very simple process of verifying that you are who you say you are, you can list accurate, up-to-date information on Google about your business.

If you do not do this, it is POSSIBLE Google Maps will still have accurate info about your business. It’s possible, but not guaranteed. Especially given the major changes many businesses have had to make over the past couple of years, Google Maps (and similar services) currently have massive potential for inaccuracies when it comes to listing information about businesses in your city.

How to check your info

You may want to begin by searching the address of your business in Google Maps and see if it lists your building and most accurate and updated information about your business on the map. Also search for the name of your business in Google Maps and see if Google provides accurate information.

If anything Google has listed is incorrect, Google is not necessarily under any obligation to provide accurate information. It may not seem fair or right, but it may be in your best interests to make certain the information Google has listed for the public is both true and correct.

Considerations

As a business owner, you’ll need to consider things like: “Do I want people to avoid my business because Google Maps placed the location pin on the wrong side of the block?” You might also consider: “Are people giving my business bad ratings because Google Maps has our hours incorrectly listed?”

Issues like this spring up more often than you’re likely than you’re comfortable thinking about – it’s a mess out there. And it’s not just Google Maps – though that’s probably the first place you should start to look into curating. Start right now – it’ll be worth your while!

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Game

New Halo Infinite Multiplayer Maps And Weapons Revealed

After being shown off during Xbox & Bethesda’s E3 Showcase, the new content coming in Halo Infinite‘s multiplayer was further detailed by developer 343 Industries in a post on Halo Waypoint. The post sticks strictly to details on the game’s multiplayer, including details on the new maps, weapons, and vehicles players can expect to see.

Only two weapons were revealed in the Waypoint post: The Skewer and the VK78 Commando. Immediately, both are stylistically different from guns in other Halo titles, taking on a more gritty and realistic look. The Skewer lives up to its name, apparently firing a large pointed rod to shoot through enemies. The weapon also features a rusted blade as a bayonet, ensuring that if enemies don’t keel over from the stab wound, they’ll eventually succumb to tetanus. The commando on the other hand is a standard-looking assault rifle.

In terms of maps, we got a decent look at what’s on the way. Behemoth, set on a Halo ring, will put players into a tropical area, full of sand, palm trees, and massive forerunner structures. Fragmentation takes place at a base called “Installation 07,” and is filled with rocks to take cover behind or jump on top of to get the drop on enemies.

Recharge and Live Fire are more industrial-themed, with the former taking place in an old hydroelectric facility full of open spaces. The latter is a training course for Spartans, so expect an extremely balanced, if not symmetrical, map.

Finally, there’s Bazaar, set in Mombasa. We don’t see a lot of this map in the preview, so it’s hard to say exactly how it will eventually play.

The post on Waypoint also gave us a look at the vehicles players can expect to see in Halo Infinite. Classics such as the Ghost, Chopper, and Banshee are making a comeback, although with a new red and black metallic design. A VTOL attack chopper called the Wasp is also being added, which can seat one player and sports dual machine guns. Finally, the game is getting an additional land vehicle in the Razorback, an offshoot of the Warthog that forgoes weapons for extra armor.

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Game

Overwatch 2 Devs Explain How the Game’s Dynamic Maps Work

Among the heaps of new content coming with Overwatch 2 are massive changes to maps. The game’s entire engine has been redone, and obviously, that means things are going to look a bit better. But the developers and artists at Blizzard have taken an extra step and created a system called Environment States that will sometimes impose different weather conditions on maps.

This feature was previously shown during one of Blizzard’s Overwatch 2 streams but has been further detailed in a news post on the game’s website.

The post, written by two members of the Overwatch team, software engineer Marco and lighting artist Fabien, details just how Environment States works and how it will affect the game. According to Fabien, Environment States was designed to assist with supporting “the story that the map is telling.”

“With this new system,” says Fabien, “we have managed to split all the major components of lighting, sound, and effects into self-contained assets that can be combined like building blocks to create what we call Environment Scenarios.”

Environment Scenarios aren’t some massively complex thing from the outside. From a player’s perspective, they’re simply the weather and time of day on a map. An example given in the post shows the map Necropolis with its nighttime scenario. However, with the new Environment States system, the Overwatch team can simply take the Environment Scenario of another map, in this case, sunny Temple of Anubis, and apply it to Necropolis to give the map a brand new look.

However, this new system lets the Overwatch team do more than just change the time of day on a given map. Using it, they can also add weather changes to maps in a dynamic fashion. In Overwatch 2, players can expect maps set in the desert to be clouded by sandstorms, or snowy maps to be blanketed in sudden blizzards.

While we still don’t know when Overwatch 2 will release, you can still check out everything else we know about the game.

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Tech News

Google details how it’s making Maps better with new AI features

At Google I/O, the search giant outlined two new features for Google Maps that help map roads more than ten times faster than possible five years ago. The new feature aims to bring maps packed with useful information to consumers, and Google is giving details on how AI makes two of the new features possible. One way is using AI to teach maps to identify and forecast when people are hitting their brakes.

The feature is leveraging AI to tell when drivers are hitting brakes as part of its routing update that helps users avoid situations that require them to hit their brakes hard, such as confusing lane changes or freeway exits. Google is using artificial intelligence and navigation information to identify hard-braking events, which are moments that result in drivers decelerating rapidly. Hard braking is a known indicator of the likelihood of a car crash.

Google says it believes this update will help to eliminate more than 100 million hard-braking events in routes driven using Google Maps each year. Google trained its AI using machine learning models on two data sets. The first data set has information from phones using Google Maps because phone sensors can determine deceleration along the route. The data is prone to false alarms because the phone can move inside the vehicle independent of the car itself.

To defeat that, Google uses information from routes driven with Google Maps when projected on a display using Android Auto. The search giant admits that’s a relatively small subset of data, but it’s highly accurate because Maps is operating in a stable spot. Google is also working to identify other causes of hard deceleration, such as construction or visibility issues.

Google also confirmed that detailed street maps would expand to 50 more cities by the end of 2021. Again, AI is being leveraged to make that possible. This requires Google to remake its mapping process. It has trained machine learning models to identify and classify features across an index of millions of Street View, satellite, and aerial images starting with roads and then moving to buildings and other features. Its models have been updated to identify all objects in a scene at once, allowing the detection and classification of broad sets of features simultaneously while maintaining accuracy, leading to faster mapmaking.

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Tech News

Google Maps can show eco-friendly locations and businesses

Living an eco-friendly life shouldn’t be hard but the reality is that it’s difficult to sustain a green lifestyle the moment you leave your abode. It might be easy to aware of how your choices can affect the environment but it’s not always that easy to find places that share that mindset. Fortunately, Google Maps just got a bit greener and can now show you the nearest recycling drop-off point or which businesses use recycled materials so that you can show your support to establishments that take sustainability seriously.

Not everything that needs to be disposed of should be disposed of in the same way. There are tons of materials that can be recycled, for example, and some things, like batteries, need to be handled with proper care. There are definitely places that accept those objects and handle the processes for you but, unless you already know what you’re looking for, finding them can be a bit of a chore.

Fortunately, Google Maps will now be highlighting exactly those locations. Businesses that accept things like batteries to be disposed of, hazardous materials, glass bottles, etc., will be easily searchable on Google Maps, at least if the business owners add those pieces of information. Visitors to those places will also be asked a series of questions that confirm or clarify what materials those businesses handle.

Google Maps can also showcase businesses with sustainable practices, like craftspeople that upscale or restaurants that compost. The idea is that people with eco-friendly lifestyles will be more likely to patronize these establishments if they are more visible.

None of these happen by magic, of course, and Google Maps needs the help of Local Guides to surface those pieces of information. Users can also contribute by answering questionnaires that pop up after they visit certain businesses that provide related services.

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Tech News

A small but useful feature is returning to Google Maps on Android

Google Maps on Android is seeing a classic feature return with its latest update. Two years after it was removed in an effort to clean up the app’s interface, Google has confirmed that it’s bringing back the compass. Yes indeed, it seems that Android users are finally getting back the tool that has been the cornerstone of navigation for centuries.

Google announced the return of the compass in a support post discovered by Android Police. Apparently, Google was driven to reinstate the compass after receiving “overwhelming” feedback in support of the tool following its removal in 2019. “You wanted it and we heard you! We’re excited to announce the return of the compass on Maps for Android,” Google Maps’ community manager Shweta wrote in that support post. “The compass was removed from Maps for Android in early 2019 in an effort to clean up the Navigation screen but due to overwhelming support it’s back!”

The compass will appear on the side of the screen whenever you use Maps to navigate to a destination. The widget, for those who don’t remember, is fairly plain in its implementation, only offering a red arrow that continuously points north even as your relative position rotates. Still, that’s enough to satisfy the functionality requirements of a compass, so in this case, its simplicity doesn’t really matter all that much.

Google says that the compass is returning to the Android version of Maps in version 10.62, which is rolling out globally. Interestingly enough, the compass never disappeared from the iOS version of Google Maps, so iPhone users can carry on using it as they always have.

Just a couple of days ago, Google announced a slew of new features headed to Google Maps in 2021, with many of those features based in AI. By the end of the year, Maps will be able to do things like show air quality and weather forecasts at your destination, offer Live View at some indoor locations like malls and transit stations, and even offer eco-friendly routes that use less fuel. You can read more about those incoming features in our round up of Google’s announcement, but otherwise, Android users should install version 10.62 to get their compass back.

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