Sometimes you just can’t handle waiting for an open treadmill at the gym, or standing in line for some taco just because the place was featured on Eater. Sometimes–dare I admit?–we’d just prefer to avoid other humans altogether. For those moments, Google has updated its mobile search results to feature a graph of foot traffic by hour, so that you can estimate how busy your intended destination will be before you decide to go.
The graphs appear automatically, tucked inside the business pages just below the address and phone number. You simply side-swipe through a series of bar graphs to see “popular times” depicted hour-by-hour for each day of the week. The data is compliments of you and everyone else who uses Google’s geolcoation services. It appears to be–more or less–the same technology behind Google Maps’s realtime traffic analysis, just cross referenced with businesses.
Of course, while Google chooses to show us this information today via a graph, it’s easy to imagine how their automated services, like their search results and Google Now, might tailor what we see by foot traffic. Businesses like Starbucks have already shared plans on how, via an app, they might direct customers to the less busy stores nearby, to shorten wait times and load balance their own grid of coffee shops. Why couldn’t Google Now someday suggest an agenda for your day off, which included the entertainment and food options it guesses you’re most likely interested in, cross referenced with places it knows you can sneak into without waiting in line or making a reservation?
In fact, if Google chose to really throw its weight around in search results and maps suggestions, it could herd all of us urban explorers–by omitting or prioritizing certain options as we searched for things to do and places to eat–into a more perfectly dispersed population, where you might not discover your favorite gym or taco, but hey, at least there’s no line!