Human-Friendly Driving Directions Based Upon Personalized Landmarks

Posted in: Local Search

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Google keeps information about your Mobile Location History and the places that you visit. It may remember those places and use them as personalized landmarks in the directions that it shows you in the future. It may also boost those places in Maps search results when it shows them to you.

Human Friendly Driving Directions with Personalized Landmarks

Back in 2005, I wrote a post about Human Friendly Driving Directions From Google?

A new patent that has come out this spring presents a different approach based upon an awareness of places that you have traveled to in the past, which it could use as personalized landmarks.

Giving Directions and Problems with Directions

Usually, when someone searches using Google Maps, they specify a starting point and a destination, and the mapping program will display directions immediately and/or as the user travels from the starting point and the destination.

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The program indicates such things such as distance, street names, and building numbers, to generate navigation directions based on the route.

Some issues with Driving Directions can include problems such as:

  • Drivers may not accurately judge distances
  • Seeing street signs and building numbers can be difficult
  • There are areas where street and road signage is poor

This patent suggests that to improve driving directions, navigation directions can be augmented with references to points of interest (also referred to herein as “landmarks”) along the route, such as buildings that standout visually or billboards.

And these landmarks can be presented to orient a user within a digital map.

But, the number of landmarks that are well-known to the general public is limited, and software applications may not always be able to present a landmark when orienting or navigating the user. That may mean that Google may instead decide to use personalized landmarks.

Personalized Landmarks

The solution that this patent provides is to include in navigation directions or when orienting a user, personalized map data showing places they know when the user permits the system to use such location data.

That location history can include information about landmarks previously visited by the user, such as:

  • The location of the POI or landmark
  • The date and time in which the user visited the landmark
  • The amount of time spent at the landmark
  • A label for the landmark provided by the user such as “Home,” “Work,” “John’s House,” “Favorite Restaurant,”
  • Etc.

A personalized landmark may be selected from the user’s location history that is:

  • Near the selected location
  • Based on the frequency and/or recency with which the user visited the landmark

Google may keep track of how often you visit places, and how much time you spend at them, as seen in this chart from the patent drawings:

frequently visited places

Then the mapping application will present a selected landmark on a map display, to give a user a frame of reference for the chosen location, and a final destination in comparison to it.

In addition to seeing a personalized landmark in a set of directions, someone using this navigation system may see it in directions from a starting location such as where they are at present.

And they might see in their directions one that could be something like, “Turn right at the intersection after passing Bob’s House”

Boosting Rankings of POIs Used as Personalized Landmarks?

The place that Google might choose as a landmark for you may be boosted in the rankings you see based on how often and how recently you have visited it.

Google may also include in the display map, information such as “This is a place you visit frequently” or show information about the last time you visited, as an annotation, like in this patent drawing:

location annotations

In addition to seeing places annotated in a map display, you may also see annotations in SERPs for those maps results

SERPs Locations annotations

Personalized Landmarks Shown as Intermediate Destinations

Google may show a familiar location as an intermediate destination on your way to a final destination, like this place listed with an annotation as a place you visit frequently (“You come here often.”) on a map:

personalized landmarks as intermediate destinations

That location may not be in a direct route to a final destination but would be a landmark which the user is very familiar with or may have traveled to many times in the past.

The patent says that doing this can significantly reduce the number of navigation instructions in might need to provide (and may only provide sparse navigation directions until a user gets to that intermediate destination.) They may give more detailed directions after you pass your personal landmark, and noted in this drawing from the patent:

personalized Landmarks and Directions

This personalized landmarks patent can be found at:

Displaying Personalized Landmarks in a Mapping Application
Inventors: Haroon Baig, Ankit Gupta
Applicants: GOOGLE LLC
Publication Number WO/2020/050842
Publication Date March 12, 2020
International Filing Date June 9, 2018


To provide personalized data for display on a map, a server device obtains location data for a user and identifies locations that are familiar to the user based on the frequency and recency in which the user visits the locations. The server device then provides the familiar locations in search results/suggestions and annotates the familiar locations with a description of a relationship between the familiar location and the user. The server device also includes the familiar locations as landmarks for performing maneuvers in a set of navigation instructions. Furthermore, the server device provides a familiar location as a frame of reference on a map display when a user selects another location near the familiar location. Moreover, the server device includes a familiar location as an intermediate destination when the user request navigation directions to a final destination.

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