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Turn Right at the Burger King: Google Maps Begins Using Landmarks To Help With Guidance (techcrunch.com) 135

Most navigation apps give you instructions based on streets or distance. But it's arguably in contrast to how people usually provide directions -- some usually point to landmarks that are easier to spot. Google sees some merit in that. The idea is that Google Maps is highlighting some landmarks and other points of interest (fast food restaurants) to help with guidance. TechCrunch reports that some users are already seeing this on Google Maps. And maybe to Google, this opens door for some business opportunities as well. Only time will tell.
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Turn Right at the Burger King: Google Maps Begins Using Landmarks To Help With Guidance

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  • by Spy Handler ( 822350 ) on Thursday April 19, 2018 @12:45PM (#56465181) Homepage Journal

    Google Maps use her as landmark!

  • Maybe? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Thursday April 19, 2018 @12:45PM (#56465183)

    And maybe to Google, this opens door for some business opportunities

    Seriously? Of course that's the plan. Google is an advertising platform.

    • Re:Maybe? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by swillden ( 191260 ) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Thursday April 19, 2018 @01:14PM (#56465523) Homepage Journal

      And maybe to Google, this opens door for some business opportunities

      Seriously? Of course that's the plan. Google is an advertising platform.

      This Maps feature actually came out of work to make directions useful in countries and regions where street addresses don't really exist, notably much of India. Apparently someone thought that now that Maps supports navigation by landmarks, maybe it could be applied to make directions easier to follow even in areas that do have street addresses.

      I doubt that anyone has given serious thought to how landmark navigation could be used for advertising purposes. Not saying it couldn't happen, but it seems unlikely to me.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You doubt? Just take a left at Dunkin where you can get 2 for $2 today.

      • This is a step towards mapping the physical 'sign skyline' and integrating and overlaying the data in Mixed Reality.

        We are on track for this user experience: 'Hyper-Reality' https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com] *sound warning*

      • Actually, studies have found [springer.com] that people prefer to use landmarks to get around rather than street names. When I first learned that (in the 1990s - before Google Maps and GPS), I began giving people directions with both names and landmarks. e.g. Turn right on Main St. That's the one with the Shell gas station on the corner. Once I began doing that, I noticed that the number of people who were late arriving at my house or to events I planned because "we got lost" dropped almost to zero.
        • "Turn right at the White Castle with the prostitute sitting on the big rock out front." -- Two-Fisted Tales of Robot Cars

        • Well, that, and the fact that the landmarks are visible long before the street name is. Plus, most street signs are in low contrast colors (e.g., white lettering on green background), and the lettering is very small. Much easier to see a Shell station from a long way away and get yourself into the correct lane, slow down, and look at the street name at the last minute to confirm you're at the correct Shell station.

          The way I would explain how to get to my house to an out-of-town visitor minimizes the number
      • I doubt that anyone has given serious thought to how landmark navigation could be used for advertising purposes.

        Seriously?

        • Re:Maybe? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by swillden ( 191260 ) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Thursday April 19, 2018 @03:17PM (#56466639) Homepage Journal

          I doubt that anyone has given serious thought to how landmark navigation could be used for advertising purposes.

          Seriously?

          Seriously. Most of the teams in Google basically never think about advertising... or even about monetization. It's all about user impact and engagement. Monetization is the Ads team's problem. I was in the industry for 20+ years before joining Google, so it struck me as very odd when I was hired at Google, because drawing a straight line from your work to the bottom line is a big part of life in most software shops. Most of Google seriously never thinks about it; we know that ads fund 90% of our paychecks, but our focus is on the users of whatever product we're building. Further, development of everything is rather bottom-up, not top-down. Features almost never start with some executive directing that something be built, they start with engineers convincing their own managers that something would have strong user impact (which is needed for good performance reviews, promotion, etc.). Direction of one organization to do something to help another is fairly rare; cross-organization cooperation is common, but it's driven by the interested organization reaching out to the other organization and asking for help (which is usually given quite freely).

          In a case like this, if there were some initiative to use advertising to monetize landmark navigation, it would come from the Ads team, not the Maps team. And it's likely that the Ads team knows nothing about landmark navigation. Until they read about it on slashdot or similar.

          • by spun ( 1352 )

            The only landmark Google mentions in my city is Firestone. Every single time I drive by a Firestone. "Keep going straight past the Firestone I didn't even need to mention because you don't need a landmark to go straight." Don't try to paint Google as some saintly, charitable organization. That "Do no evil" ship sailed years ago.

            • Don't try to paint Google as some saintly, charitable organization.

              I didn't. I just describe how things work.

              That "Do no evil" ship sailed years ago.

              Its "Don't be evil", and it's still considered a key principle.

              • by spun ( 1352 )

                Key marketing principle, maybe. Are you saying you honestly think Google is a good and moral corporation? Not for over a decade, if it ever was. Okay, maybe you work there, and you aren't a bad guy, and nobody you work with is a bad guy. But Google exists for one purpose, to make its shareholders money. If it comes down to losing money or doing a bad thing, Google does the bad thing, like every corporation. Don't be brainwashed just because they pay the bills for you.

          • Most of the teams in Google basically never think about advertising... or even about monetization.

            really? Know them all personally, do you?

            • Most of the teams in Google basically never think about advertising... or even about monetization.

              really? Know them all personally, do you?

              I know a decent cross section, yes. I interact with lots of different teams across the company.

          • by msauve ( 701917 )
            "Most of the teams in Google basically never think about advertising..."

            You should have simply stopped at "...never think." Like how the maps group never thinks about how people actually use it for navigation while driving, so feel free to make major UI changes on a whim. Or, forcing you to interact more than necessary to actually begin navigating (press "directions," then press "start.").

            "development of everything is rather bottom-up, not top-down. "

            That explains it - no adult supervision.
          • by ttsai ( 135075 )

            Most of the teams in Google basically never think about advertising... or even about monetization. It's all about user impact and engagement.

            If Google is really doing the best it can for user impact and engagement, then you'd think there would be at least some noticeable effort toward ... well engaging the user. However, as anyone who has frustratingly tried to send in bug reports, suggestions, and complaints has known for many years, user engagement is not only not easy, I'm not sure it's possible.

            I think what you meant to say was that Google is all about **customer** impact and engagement. Non-paying user (NPU) impact is only important as a

            • by ttsai ( 135075 )

              Another data point [mercurynews.com] for how well Google engages users:

              Tesla isn’t the only Silicon Valley tech giant with a bad BBB rating. Google currently has a “D.” But last week it had an “F.” The Mountain View company typically responds to complaints periodically, so its rating goes up and down, McFarland said.

      • This Maps feature actually came out of work to make directions useful in countries and regions where street addresses don't really exist, notably much of India.

        Yeah here in India this feature has been on for long time and is quite useful, Indian streets are not visibly named at all and many have no discernible numbering system. Its hardly a new feature just new to US probably

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Sat navs have been doing this for at least 15 years. Maybe they didn't speak the name of the landmark, but they would display it on the screen.

        I distinctly remember seeing Japanese models with 3D maps that had brand names on the textures around 2004/2005. Japan doesn't really have street names...

        • I saw a good writeup on Japan vs European addressing which boiled down to this:

          US/Europe: Streets and roads have numbers or names. Blocks are those unnamed pieces of land between the streets.
          Japan: Blocks are numbered. Streets are those unnamed pieces of land between the blocks.

          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

            Yeah, that's basically it. You get a block and building number, but it can be tricky to find the right building. They seemed to be one of the first to get detailed mapping and 3D building models though.

      • I doubt that anyone has given serious thought to how landmark navigation could be used for advertising purposes. Not saying it couldn't happen, but it seems unlikely to me.

        I'd try to sell you a bridge, but you'd probably just think it was an innocent landmark...

    • Seriously? Of course that's the plan. Google is an advertising platform.

      I'm sure you are right, but this still seems like a great idea from a driver's point of view. If I'm in an unfamiliar area, it's going to be a lot easier to identify a Burger King at a distance than it is to read street signs. I just hope this change also makes it to Waze.

      A few months ago, I made my first trip to a new, unfamiliar location in a town I don't know very well. I've since had to go there multiple times - and pretty quickly I found my self remembering to "turn left at the Les Schwab" rather than

      • by tomhath ( 637240 )
        And if you ever need to drive in Pennsylvania you'll appreciate this feature even more. Marking roads is an afterthought, whether a street is named or numbered seemingly changes at random depending one which direction you are travelling, and the signs are usually so close to the intersection that their only use is to inform you that you just missed the turn.
  • Instead of saying "turn right in 1/2 mile", why not calculate the time it would take to reach that point from the current speed and say "turn right in 1/2 mile, or 45 seconds based on your current speed". I find myself doing this calculation in my head whenever I'm following turn-by-turn instructions.
    • by linuxguy ( 98493 )

      Distance is fixed. Time to travel is not. It might take driver A 5 minutes to cover a distance, driver B might make it in 3. The distance is the same for both. Also, changes in traffic pattern may also alter the time. But distance will remain the same. I can totally see why Google Maps prefers to give you the distance to your turn.

      • Distance is fixed. Time to travel is not. It might take driver A 5 minutes to cover a distance, driver B might make it in 3. The distance is the same for both. Also, changes in traffic pattern may also alter the time. But distance will remain the same. I can totally see why Google Maps prefers to give you the distance to your turn.

        Hence the "at your current speed" proviso included the verbal time reference. And it could use a rate of progress calculated via a running average of speed per unit of distanc
        • Hence the "at your current speed" proviso

          Why do you assume that the current speed will be maintained?

          • by duguk ( 589689 )

            Hence the "at your current speed" proviso

            Why do you assume that the current speed will be maintained?

            Newton's first law?

      • by wizkid ( 13692 )

        Distance is fixed. Time to travel is not.

        Not if you have a TARDIS

    • by xevioso ( 598654 )

      Because people don't navigate like this. No one estimates when they need to turn by time passed. People look for streets or landmarks from their current spot. It's easy to overengineer this though.

    • by Calydor ( 739835 )

      The above reasons, and because your suggestion takes so long to say that the time changes drastically (is it 45 seconds from starting to speak, from saying "forty ... five ...", or from finishing the sentence?), and if you're navigating particularly narrow streets you might overshoot because the GPS wasn't done yakking.

      KISS applies to what the GPS should be saying.

      • It's harder still since my car seems to add about a second of buffering delay when i'm using bluetooth audio, and even that second is quite hard to get used to when you are driving in a city environment.

    • I absolutely agree. I'd also like to see something like "turn right in 1/2 mile / 45 seconds, and then turn left in 3 miles". I like to think two or three steps ahead to cover things like being in the correct lane for turns, and Google Maps does that part really badly. If you miss a turn because there were five lanes of traffic to cross and you only got 10 seconds of notice, the directions have failed.

    • I find myself doing this calculation in my head whenever I'm following turn-by-turn instructions.

      I can barely do those calculations when I'm sober. How am I supposed to do them when I'm driving?

    • by Junta ( 36770 )

      I think you may be fairly unique, I've never heard anyone else say they do this or heard any human give humans directions in terms of estimated time..

      As others mentioned, while you could extrapolate a guess, particularly at 1/2 mile away the likelihood of an unpredictable momentary traffic condition completely ruining that guess is very high.

      I personally glance at the map to get a sense for whether or not it's the very next available road in that direction, or if it's the second or third intersection. This

      • by Cederic ( 9623 )

        I have a friend that does. The problem is that when he says, "ten minutes away" it tends to be somewhere between 15 and 45 minutes away.

        Don't ask how accurate his 'about an hour away' is..

  • They did a test years ago. They found that women are better at directions based on color, buildings, names etc and men were better with left/right/street names. I use to dispatch 911, and it was comical sometimes, before the ability to know the address location before even picking up the phone, trying to wrestle the location of the person in a rural area. 1 mile could be anywhere from a couple hundred feet, to several miles. Left/right depended on which way they THOUGHT you would be coming. It's just hab
    • That's a good observation. Wife tends to give directions based on landmarks, ambiguous direction like "go over to" and vague distances like "go down a bit" where I use street signs and compass points and distance in miles or blocks. (But that, I'm told is because I'm a Mansplainin' a$$h0le.) We often can't understand each other's directions. ("WEST. You know where WEST is! It's where THE SUN GOES DOWN. See, it's right there. Behind us, now.")

      Landmarks are fine if there is enough detail to make it wo

    • Oh sure, but where's the adventure in that?

      "After you leave the pavement, you go down the road a bit 'till you see three big rocks. You can ignore them, they just let you know you're on the right road. If you get to the base of a mountain without seeing the three big rocks, you're on the wrong road... So, a ways after the three big rock you'll get to the place where Billy Bob's trailer used to be parked, make a left there. If you hit a pothole so big you think you may have damaged something, that's the roa
      • Oh sure, but where's the adventure in that?

        "After you leave the pavement, you go down the road a bit 'till you see three big rocks. You can ignore them, they just let you know you're on the right road. If you get to the base of a mountain without seeing the three big rocks, you're on the wrong road... So, a ways after the three big rock you'll get to the place where Billy Bob's trailer used to be parked, make a left there. If you hit a pothole so big you think you may have damaged something, that's the road you want. In awhile you'll get to a motor home that looks and smells like a meth lab, don't slow down, it's a meth lab. A bit after that you will see a fence with some cows behind it, we are on the other side of that field but you have to drive around it 'cause there's a bull in there and he's not friendly. Just follow the fence 'till the road dead ends and follow the ruts going down the side of the fence, Look back and make sure no one from the meth lab is following you, those folks are a bit twitchy... When you get to the end of the ruts you'll be in our back yard. Park anywhere but stay away from all the old cars 'cause of snakes. Just knock on the back door or holler, the dogs don't bite but they might knock you down..."

        Yeah. Directions where I grew up always seem to reference at least one landmark that hasn't existed for decades. For example, "take the road up the hill behind the old Zellers building". Never mind that Zellers closed over 20 years ago and it's had several other department stores in it since....

        • Yeah. Directions where I grew up always seem to reference at least one landmark that hasn't existed for decades. For example, "take the road up the hill behind the old Zellers building". Never mind that Zellers closed over 20 years ago and it's had several other department stores in it since....

          Yup, we get those. Turn where the double-wide used to be...
          I like the subjective ones even better, "After a couple of miles you'll see a rock that looks kind like a bear..." if you get to Phoenix you missed it...

    • by mikael ( 484 )

      One of the things I was told was that if you asked for directions in a rural area, you should just follow the instructions they gave you by what you thought they felt meant than trying to logically deduce what they meant. So if someone told you, "go along the road, go over the hill, turn right after passing the two lanes, take the road that leads to the valley, then continue on until you cross the railway lines and can see the trees." it was better just to follow instinct that try and figure out what they m

  • by olsmeister ( 1488789 ) on Thursday April 19, 2018 @12:47PM (#56465209)
    But first, wouldn't you like to stop for a tasty Whopper? Mention ad code 3XCDF8578S and receive a $1 discount at this Burger King, valid for the next 20 minutes only.
    • It'll probably make the offer first, and won't tell you which way to turn until you buy something or touch a nearly invisible "no thanks" link.

    • Google is an ad company, but they're smart, and wouldn't go that far. Mentioning BK several times is enough to imprint the brand into your brains, without involving a cumbersome obvious ad message.
  • So let me guess... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Oswald McWeany ( 2428506 ) on Thursday April 19, 2018 @12:47PM (#56465211)

    For a fee, your business can be a landmark used to help give directions on Google Maps.

    • For a slightly higher fee, it'll insist you really want to go through the drive-thru before it gives you the next direction.

  • "Turn right at the Dunkin' Donuts"

    Misses turn because Dunkin' Donuts shop is hidden behind the Eiffel Tower.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Only 5 years behind my Garmin. I definitely prefer the convenience of my cell phone, so I'm glad they are finally bringing this

  • I wonder if we'll eventually see "go down the road a piece, and turn left where the market used to be. Then go summat further and turn right where old man Smith's barn was before it burned down. Caint miss it."

    Um, can you give me directions using landmarks that actually exist now?

  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Thursday April 19, 2018 @12:52PM (#56465263)

    In general for driving it is handy, because often road signs are hard to see (Upscale neighborhoods love to make them earth tones, often with flower pots having them hang over them.) , And sometimes are placed rather confusingly Sure the sign for the street is at a right Angle of the street, but your street is approaching it at a 45 degree angle. Or it forks into 2 other streets.

    Also things like a major fast food chain, has nice big signs, that you can see a quarter mile away (further if you live in a flat land area) So you know to keep at speed limit until you get close enough to look for the street.

    However if you miss a crazy street it would be nice to say if you see this, you probably had missed your turn.

    • by Junta ( 36770 )

      If you see fish swimming by your window, then you've gone too far.

      • by mikael ( 484 )

        There was an Amish guesthouse / hotel with turret bedrooms that each had different themes. One was "Swimming with the fishes" and had trunks, fishing nets, boat lamps and other items.

    • by mikael ( 484 )

      Conspiracy theorists used to think the maintenance barcodes on the back of street signs were some secret code for FEMA trucks to find their way around.

      But when you think about it, why not have those 2D barcodes on street signs so that they could be scanned by a smartphone.

  • Give me a break. This is all about the ad money for Google. It might be easier to give directions if you're writing it down, but you have a map with the roads on it and it's speaking to you. How more dummy down do you need?

    Next it will be:
    Turn right at the Burger King, Home of the Wopper, 2 for 6$!!

    Money.

  • Turn Right at the Burger King...

    What if the Burger King can't be located because it's been moved or simply demolished?

    I can see a fella looking for the Burger King, failing to see one ( because it doesn't exist), then igniting mayhem for those following behind.

  • Turn right at the Burger King, Woopers just $1.99, turn left at Best Buy...
  • I can see this being useful in specific circumstances like places without street signs. Around here there are numerous streets that seem to be without street signs for some reason (either stolen, fallen down and not replaced, or so faded they're illegible) so when the directions say "Turn left on West St." but the sign for West St. hasn't existed in 5 years, that's a problem. Of course the odds that something like a Burger King is going to be there forever are pretty slim, so maybe they'll have to update
    • I can see this being useful in specific circumstances like places without street signs. Around here there are numerous streets that seem to be without street signs for some reason (either stolen, fallen down and not replaced, or so faded they're illegible) so when the directions say "Turn left on West St." but the sign for West St. hasn't existed in 5 years, that's a problem. Of course the odds that something like a Burger King is going to be there forever are pretty slim, so maybe they'll have to update it to "Turn left at the thing that used to be a Burger King but is now a Coney Island" or something like that.

      On my in-car GPS it shows the streets and the turns on the dash. I hardly ever look at road signs, just the cross streets when I come to an intersection to make sure that I am following the highlighter route. In other words, as long as the GPS is accurate, you can navigate using it without road signs.

    • Of course the odds that something like a Burger King is going to be there forever are pretty slim, so maybe they'll have to update it to "Turn left at the thing that used to be a Burger King but is now a Coney Island" or something like that.

      YMMV, but around where I am Google Maps is kept way more up to date than our street signage.

  • by linuxguy ( 98493 ) on Thursday April 19, 2018 @01:00PM (#56465377) Homepage

    I was using Google Maps yesterday to navigate and when it said I should go past Taco Bell, I was surprised. I hadn't heard that before. But overall I was pleased. Signs for Taco Bell and Burger King are much larger than road signs. It is a good move.

    • I was using Google Maps yesterday to navigate and when it said I should go past Taco Bell, I was surprised. I hadn't heard that before. But overall I was pleased. Signs for Taco Bell and Burger King are much larger than road signs. It is a good move.

      And sometimes road signs aren't there at all. I don't know why, but I encounter even major intersections where at least one of the roads has no signage.

      Yet another reason I use Google Maps (or Garmin) all the time, not just when I don't know where I'm going. I like to learn all the street names, or at least be exposed to them.

    • it said I should go past Taco Bell

      That's the beginning. Then it'll say "Stop first at Taco Bell, that's almost lunch time!".

  • Turn right where the Burger King used to be before it burned down in 2015.

    Please Google, make it happen.

  • Turn left at the place that used to be a pizza hut
    http://usedtobeapizzahut.blogs... [blogspot.com]

  • I was in California on vacation and I heard it much more frequently. I imagine that's a testing ground since it's close to home. I immediately refused to go to any location that they mentioned to punish them for advertising to me like that. Also, they told me to turn at some fast food place that was tucked behind other buildings so I would have missed my turn if it wasn't for their more conventional reminders like distance or street names. Boo...
  • I already do that. I look at streetview, and then I tell myself to make a right turn as soon as I see the white cat sitting on the garbage can.

  • I find it interesting that women seem to give directions based on landmarks where's men seem to give distance and Street names.

    Yes landmarks are easier to see but far wise when you're trying to figure out where and how you took a wrong turn.

  • Take a Right at Starbucks. No not that one. No Farther down.

    Like the fifth one from the next one on the right.

  • and use landmarks that aren't there any more. "Well, ya go about a mile down the road, then take a right where that big tree blew down last summer. Go about another three and a half miles, and take another right where the schoolhouse used to be. Then in about three quarters of a mile, take a left at the old Johnson place. Name on the mailbox says 'Palmer' but those are the new people who bought it 20 years ago, everyone still calls it the Johnson place. Then go kinda-sorta-right but not hard right at the ki
  • 1. This has been in Google Maps for awhile now, and

    2. Garmin was doing it before

  • Will it say the folksy names for the landmarks. As an 8 years long Atlanta GA dweller, I'd like to hear google maps utter the words "Turn right at the Big Chicken on to Cobb Parkway", as I was told many, many times by the old timers, when I lived there. I did not notice that it was a KFC location, for a long long time.
  • Got instructions to turn left at the (live) elephant. Apparently there all day every day.

  • "If you see the Burger King, you are getting close. The cat lady standing on the corner only starts hanging around after sunset. The naked lady, on the other hand, with the tattoo on her left forearm has the number for the precinct. When you hear the call to prayer, and it's late at night, that prayer is for you, and that's a polite way of saying that you really shouldn't be in these parts so late at night. The google mapper vehicle had all four wheels taken, and it was up on cinderblocks next to a chalk o

  • As in "Turn left at the big green building with the Circle K next to it, the one that burned down in '93..."

  • by meglon ( 1001833 ) on Thursday April 19, 2018 @02:50PM (#56466409)
    .... turn right at Albuquerque.
  • "In 1.3 miles, turn right up where the Piggly Wiggly used to be."

    "Continue (on down the road apiece) for about 10 minutes,
    -- THEN -- turn right at the big tree."

    "In .4 miles, slight right.
    -- THEN -- turn left at Old Man Gaskin's road.
    Warning: Old Man Gaskin has a gun."

    "At the intersection, take the dirt road on the left."
    (already implemented)

    "You can't get there from here."

    OK Google, Navigate to CVS.
    "In one mile, Start thinking about your destination.

  • You deserve a Right Turn Today(tm)

  • I have used google maps in India. There the directions have always been like, "Turn left at Ganesha Temple, turn right at the Punjab Bank, ..." kind. Was glad it did not end in, "after turning left at the Geetha Cafe, stop, ask the boy Appu selling peacock feather fan, how to proceed". No north, south, road number business.
  • I don't think Google would use Burger King after they were trolled so hard last year.
  • There exist in the UK an entire cohort of men that can give you directions to any destination within 40 miles (and sometimes beyond) without referencing anything other than the pubs you'll pass on the way.

    My former manager is one, it was a marvel to listen to him give directions. Never tried following them mind..

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