Where is Google Taking Navigation?

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The future of navigation in Google’s Android phone, first seen in the T-Mobile G1, has a lot to do with pointing the phone at buildings, restaurants, stores, etc., and getting information about that location.

When it ships on Oct. 22, the G1 will have no turn-by-turn directions, but it will offer GPS and cell ID capability so users can pinpoint a location on a map and navigate toward it.

One of its coolest features is 360-degree Street Views of your location. If you pan your phone while standing on a street, the view of the buildings changes in a realistic fashion. The phone is able to do this by combining its compass and accelerometer.

Google’s lead product manager of the Android team, Erick Tseng, said it is possible this feature could be applied in a moving vehicle to offer more detailed side views of the streets as you drive. Street views for the G1 is demonstrated about one minute into this clip.

Developers at Enkin are working on a program for Android that identifies buildings as you point your phone at them, Tseng said. “You point your phone at a building and it says ‘4 Times Square.’ A bubble pops up on the screen overlaid on the image and says you are looking at the Conde Naste building and it can pull other information up off of the Web … That is one of the top examples of what is beginning to break ground.”

You can see what Enkin is up to in a very rough way here.

The next step will be advertising. “If you take that Enkin program, an example is —  it’s your first time in Paris and you’re walking down the Champs Elysee … all you have to do is hold your phone up and it tells you what you are seeing,” said Tseng.  As you walk, an ad might pop up that the American Express travel bureau is down the street, and when you pan your phone over it, you see an offer for a commission-free money exchange, he added.

Tseng doesn’t know how many developers are working on adding turn-by-turn directions to the G1 but said the process is slowed as per-user licensing fees are required by the map makers. But, he said, “there’s nothing to stop third-party partners from individually negotiating with the map makers.”

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