Google hasn't been shy about pushing artificial intelligence into its various apps and services, and it seems that the venerable Google Maps could be next in line to get an integrated AI chatbot of its own.
Code hidden in the latest beta version of Google Maps for Android, as spotted by Android Authority, makes various mentions of in-app conversations – including the line "you're talking with a chatbot", which sort of gives the game away.
However, only a few strings of related code have been spotted so far, so we don't have too much more information about this chatbot in terms of what form it will take, what it's designed to do, and how it will integrate with the rest of Google Maps.
Nothing is certain yet, and of course Google could easily change its mind about the Maps chatbot – but given the company's focus on AI these last few months, we wouldn't be surprised to see this new feature arriving in the app very soon.
Without any official word from Google, we're left to speculate what an AI chatbot in Google Maps might do. As Android Authority points out, it could well be something to do with submitting reviews and comments to Google Maps, perhaps via the Local Guides program.
The line of code that says "thank you for your contribution" certainly backs that up. Perhaps a chatbot might swing into action when you've visited a place, asking what your experience was like or what you thought of the service.
Another possibility is that the upcoming bot will actually give you travel advice: what to see in a particular area, where the best places to stay are, and so on. This would be similar to the advice that Google Bard (now with Google Maps integration) can already give.
AI chatbots might also be used to field questions from Google Maps users to businesses – questions about opening hours and facilities, for example. Right now, these questions can be posted and answered by humans, but AI might be about to step in.
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Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you'll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.