Google Maps has become an indispensable app for navigation and discovering local businesses. Now, Google is leveraging AI to help users find the most fun things to do in any city. The new “Things to Do” feature analyzes photos and reviews to pinpoint hotspots where people are having a great time.
This AI-powered enhancement makes planning activities easier and more customized than ever. In this in-depth guide, we’ll explore how the “Things to Do” feature works, tips for getting the most out of it, and what Google’s use of AI means for the future.
How Google’s AI Identifies Fun Activities
The “Things to Do” feature launched in October 2022 in the UK, Germany, France, and Japan before rolling out worldwide. So how does Google Maps use AI to actually determine where people are having the most fun?
Google Maps analyzes billions of photos and reviews posted by users to look for signals that a place is lively, exciting, and entertaining. The AI searches for keywords frequently associated with fun activities like “live music,” “games,” “dancing,” and more. Places with high densities of these keywords get ranked higher.
Additionally, the AI evaluates photos to estimate the mood of people at various venues. Images showing big smiles, laughter, and enthusiastic crowds help indicate a fun location. By crunching this massive data set, Google can predict which spots offer the best experience.
Peter Dingle, VP of Geo Product Experience at Google, explained that their goal was creating “a one-stop-shop to discover the very best places to eat, drink and go – powered by our community.” User-generated content allowed them to highlight hidden gems travelers would love.
Early testing produced impressive results. Dingle shared that in Tokyo, their AI unearthed over 2,500 new entertainment venues that weren’t on existing “best things to do” lists. This demonstrates the power of AI for finding places that bring joy.
Customized Recommendations Based on Your Interests
The “Things to Do” feature doesn’t just show generic attractions. Thanks to AI, results are customized to align with your personal interests. This provides a far more tailored experience.
Google Maps determines your preferences based on previous searches and activity. If you frequently search for art museums or comedy clubs, you’ll see far more of those recommended. Other signals like past ratings, reviews, and check-ins help refine suggestions.
For travelers visiting a new city for the first time, Google Maps still has tricks to offer relevant ideas. It identifies the telltale signs of a tourist, like navigating to major landmarks or hotels, and recommends popular attractions accordingly.
No matter how well the AI gets to know your tastes, you can always filter and adjust results. Toggle categories or use keywords to only show specific types of activities like “live music” or “art exhibits.” This blend of AI personalization and manual controls puts the power in your hands.
Discovering the Hidden Gems Locals Love
One of the most useful aspects of the “Things to Do” feature is finding those unique hidden gems that only locals know about. These are the cafes, galleries, and more that often get left off generic top 10 lists.
Google’s AI excels at identifying these spots because it analyzes all user-generated data, not just reviews on major publications. So if a cafe has a loyal local following who post great photos and reviews, it will get recognized even if tourists have never heard of it.
When searching for activities in your own hometown, this ability to highlight beloved local establishments can be invaluable. You can uncover the latest art pop-up or dance spot that normally spreads through word-of-mouth alone. It makes rediscovering the magic in your home area easier.
For travelers, discovering where locals spend their free time provides a more authentic experience. Eating and drinking where residents relax offers a meaningful window into local culture. Google Maps helps turn any visitor into an insider.
Planning an Entire Night Out With Ease
A night out on the town can require an exhausting amount of research and planning. Where should you start? Where should you go for drinks? And as the night goes on, where has the best late-night fun?
The “Things to Do” feature simplifies crafting an epic night from start to finish. You can quickly explore different neighborhoods and see which have the highest concentrations of cool bars, restaurants, clubs, and after-hours activities.
Once you select a promising area, you can dive deeper into the specifics. Filter by categories like “Dancing” or “Live Music” to map out a complete evening. Discover the perfect pre-dinner cocktail spot before finding the hottest dance club that stays open until 4am.
The ability to explore by time of day makes planning even easier. See which places are lively at 7pm vs 1am. This takes the guesswork out of creating a night to remember.
Tips for Using “Things to Do” Like a Pro
With an understanding of how “Things to Do” works, here are some expert tips for using this game-changing feature:
- Filter, filter, filter – Categories, keywords, ratings, and more filters are your friend. Use them liberally to narrow down hundreds of options to your prime picks.
- Read the room – Glance at photos and reviews to get a vibe check for the atmosphere at each place. This helps you pick spots that match your mood.
- Have a backup plan – Inevitably, some places will be too crowded or even closed by the time you arrive. Always have 2-3 backups picked out just in case.
- Go beyond the classics – The big tourist traps are fine, but finding local favorites offers a more unique experience. Don’t be afraid to take a chance!
- Pace yourself – When planning an entire night out, space activities out so you don’t end up burnt out too early into the evening. Think marathon, not sprint.
- Trust the algorithm – If Google’s AI suggests something you wouldn’t expect, give it a chance! The data might uncover a new favorite you’d never have found.
The Future of AI-Powered Discovery
The “Things to Do” feature represents an exciting evolution in how AI can enhance finding fun. Google Product Manager Reem Khayat explains that their long-term goal is “to build a local expert in the palm of your hand.” This AI helper would provide personalized recommendations as soon as you open Maps.
But currently, there are some limitations. The AI only analyzes public photos and reviews, so more private venues like invitation-only pop-ups won’t show up. And subjective human moods can never be perfectly interpreted by algorithms.
However, as machine learning continues to advance, Google’s geo-assistant will keep getting smarter. Dingle envisions capabilities like real-time AR navigation showing you the liveliest path through a nightlife district.
While AI may not replace actual human local friends, tools like “Things to Do” enable you to explore like an insider anywhere in the world. As this technology improves, say goodbye to fear of missing out on fun experiences, no matter where your travels take you.
Frequently Asked Questions About “Things to Do”
Google Maps’ “Things to Do” feature powered by AI is handy, but you may still have some questions. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:
How does Google Maps know my interests?
Google Maps determines your interests based on your past activity – including searches, ratings, reviews, and businesses you visited. It uses this history to make recommendations personalized to you.
Can I choose to show family-friendly options only?
Yes, you can filter “Things to Do” by selecting the “Family-friendly” option, and it will only show kid-appropriate activities.
If I’m traveling somewhere new, how does it know what to recommend?
For new locations, Google Maps looks for signals you are a tourist, like looking up major attractions. It then suggests popular tourist activities initially.
What if some results seem inaccurate or irrelevant to me?
The algorithm isn’t perfect. You can give negative feedback on any recommendations you feel are off-base, and Google will adjust accordingly.
Can Google Maps recommend things to do based on the weather?
Not currently, but as the AI improves, factoring in weather forecasts is likely. This would help suggest indoor options on rainy days.
What happens if a recommended place is permanently closed?
Report closed or inaccurate business listings by tapping the 3-dot menu next to a place and choosing “Suggest an edit.” This improves results for everyone.
How often does “Things to Do” get updated?
Google doesn’t provide an exact cadence, but the algorithm runs continuously to take into account new places, reviews, photos and other data.
What cities or countries is the feature available in?
After launching in the UK, Germany, France and Japan, it rolled out globally in late 2022. So it should now be available in most areas Google Maps covers.
Google’s AI-powered “Things to Do” makes planning fun activities far more simple. Follow these tips and FAQs to master spontaneous adventure!