Flight delay predictions, mobile trip-planning, language translation through Bluetooth earbuds, and a smartphone that enables users to learn about landmarks by tapping an icon and aiming the phone at them: These are among the travel innovations Google has introduced. While a Google Pixel 2 smartphone starts at $649, the company’s latest tools are free.
Search Google for a hotel or flight and you’ll also get an “explore” tab to check out the destination’s top sights and best times to visit.
Travelers can edit their itineraries and see them offline if they use the Google Trips app, which allows users to check out things to do and places to eat; review transportation options; see emergency numbers; and find out about local currency and free Wi-Fi locations.
Google has added features to Google Flights, its airfare search and comparison tool. Now users can see what’s included (or not) with fare types like basic economy. For instance, you can find out whether a particular fare on Delta or United allows you to choose your seat or bring a bag. Users may also be able to find out why their flights are delayed (to check your status, just search your flight number on Google).
While these digital tools are free, they aren’t the only additions that may be of interest to travelers. Google Pixel Buds ($159), Bluetooth earbuds that work with Google Translate on the company’s Pixel 2 phone offers translation in 40 languages, including Italian, Hindi, Chinese and Spanish. For example, let’s say you’re in a cafe in Provence. You begin by gently pressing the right earbud touch pad and saying, “Google, help me speak French.”
“Sure,” the Google Assistant virtual helper will say, “opening Google Translate” (the app must be installed on a Google Pixel phone for this to work). When the waiter comes by, you can touch the right earbud again and say: “May I have a coffee with milk and a glass of water, please?” Google Assistant will then speak aloud on the phone in French what you just said in English. When the waiter replies in French, you’ll hear his words translated into English in your ear.
The buds can be used for other travel-related tasks as well. By touching the right earbud, you can ask for the location of the nearest museum, gas station or McDonald’s. Request directions to a restaurant and you’ll be shown a map and suggested route on your smartphone.
The Google Pixel 2 camera has Google Lens technology, which enables users to tap a Lens icon and then point the phone at things such as a landmark, an artwork or a movie poster to learn more.
New features were also added to the company’s smart speaker, Google Home. Home has long been able to assist with travel by answering aloud the sorts of questions travelers type into Google search: whether they need a visa to visit a particular country, the best time to visit, current weather, currency conversions, how to say “thank you” in another language, as well as flight departure times and traffic conditions. New to that list is flight-price tracking.
Google Home users can begin by saying aloud, “OK Google, how much are flights to Hong Kong?” The speaker will reply with the best current price for the route, and ask if you have preferred dates and if you want to track flight prices for those dates.