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Navigating Indian Roads On Google Maps With “Landmarks” : Amazing !

The kind of maps that work else where like in US don’t work on Indian roads. For starters, roads are not clearly and visibly marked that one can look at while driving. So, the best form of navigating on Indian roads is by “asking somebody” for directions and then by following those directions based on landmarks, that can’t be missed.

We found that using landmarks in directions helps for two simple reasons: they are easier to see than street signs and they are easier to remember than street names.

We also discovered that there are three situations in which people resort to landmarks.

  1. The first is when people need to orient themselves — for instance, they just exited a subway station and are not sure which way to go. Google Maps would say: "Head southeast for 0.2 miles." A person would say: "Start walking away from the McDonald's."
  2. The second situation is when people use a landmark to describe a turn: "Turn right after the Starbucks."
  3. The third use, however, is the most interesting. We discovered that often people simply want to confirm that they are still on the right track and haven't missed their turn.

-- Google Blog

Digitizing this “landmark” based navigation so that it can be used on maps like Google maps is a herculean task, if not impossible. But Google appears to have done it, with the help of community of Indian online users.

This effort was possible thanks to the large amount of landmark data that users like you contributed through Google Map Maker. Our new algorithm determines from available signals, which of these landmarks are most useful for navigation, based on importance and closeness to the turns that you're making. We now combine landmark data, counted turns ("the 2nd right"), intersection names, and road names, and try to use whatever information is most relevant and useful for the direction you're heading in.

-- Source : Google India Blog

With extensive user input, some wonderful algorithms and great user interface design, now Google Maps offers navigation just the way we, Indians, always do, based on landmarks. Look at the sample screenshot. Its amazing.

Great job, Google team. And a ton of thanks to all those who contributed inputs on landmarks to Google.

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