Making dinner plans with friends sounds simple enough, but can often turn into the most frustrating part of the week. The exercise always starts with good intentions: Find a restaurant everyone can agree on. But somehow, the discussion turns into a catastrophically long messaging thread with too many options and not enough focus that threatens your patience and your closest relationships. All of sudden, that mid-week presentation that drew you close to tears doesn't look so bad anymore.
Fortunately, the annoyance of restaurant-picking over text is one of the pain points Google is tackling with updates to Google Maps. In addition to the basic directions you already rely on the app for, the new features emphasize discoverability. According to Jen Fitzpatrick, the VP of Google Maps, the chance to learn about the places around us is a tool oft-requested by users.
Maps is debuting a reimagining of the "Explore" tab, which Fitzpatrick describes as "pretty basic" up to this point. Through the new tab, you'll be able to see detailed information about nearby restaurants and events, as well as Google-curated lists of what's trending at that moment based on what users are searching for and where people are actually going. There will also be third-party lists from city guides, such as The Infatuation.
This is the service the new Google Maps wants to deliver, a kind of hyper-personalized tour guide in the app. To that end, Google is also unveiling a new "For You" tab, which uses information from three sources — your location history (you can turn it on in Settings), any ratings or reviews you've left, and preferences you explicitly tell Google — to suggest picks.
"What if everyone could be in the spot where you have the inside scoop and someone’s telling you, 'Hey there’s a new place coming' or 'there’s a new place that just opened, and it’s the type of place I suspect you want to know about,'" Fitzpatrick says of the role "For You" serves.
To start, "For You" will focus on dining, although Fitzpatrick says you can expect it to expand over time. Every item that is included in the tab will come with a match score — similar to the kind you see for matches on OkCupid — that indicates how closely a restaurant or bar aligns with your interests. You can tap on the score to find out why Google is suggesting it to you.
Here's where that restaurant decision-making help for you and your friends comes in: When you find a few restaurants you like, you can press and hold on each to pull it into a list. Then, text that list to friends and each can vote for the spot they like. A process that used to take hours — from finding the restaurants, to typing them in, and polling via text — now takes seconds. You won't need to send individual links to each restaurant or even answer questions about where the Thai place is located, because it's all right there.
If you find yourself worrying you're getting caught in a dining bubble, sticking to spots that only match your preferences, there's an easy way to break out: Just tap Explore.