May 15, 2013 at 3:04 PM ET
Google Maps got a few significant updates at the company's I/O event in San Francisco Wednesday, with a refreshed look and some handy new features aimed at letting you explore your surroundings without keyword searching. The updated maps will be coming to desktop and mobile, though you may have to wait a bit to try them out.
The familiar mobile app (now seen on both Android and iOS) is getting a few updates this summer, mainly reflecting Google's new focus on local and automatically-generated content. Daniel Graf, director of Google Maps, showed how the latest information can be integrated into everything from directions to restaurant reviews.
For instance, if you're driving and Google detects that there has been an accident along your path, it will automatically offer to reroute. And places like cafes and restaurants, when you tap on them to check hours or reviews, may show special offers — a nearby Starbucks may be offering half off a new drink, or perhaps there is an online coupon for a restaurant you're already heading for.
Google's larger announcement addressed "the future of Google Maps," a new look and feel that will be rolling out soon, first on the Web.
There are lots of new ground-level data, including a wholesale integration of Google Earth — 3-D buildings, powerful visualizations of transit data and — drawing audible awe from the audience — real-time clouds rendered around the globe.
There are other changes. Each map will be slightly tweaked to reflect your interests, showing restaurants you've been to, items from previous searches, and so on. Information from your friends will be integrated as well.
The new Maps experience is rolling out to attendees of the conference first, but you can sign up to receive an invite at this preview page.
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.