Google Maps update will help to unearth hidden London gems with your phone’s camera

Fancy having tea and meeting some new people in your postcode? (Rex)
Fancy having tea and meeting some new people in your postcode? (Rex)

Tired of going to the same coffee shop in your area? Google Maps wants to help with that. The app is getting a huge new update that uses your phone’s camera to visually show you places of interest nearby. You could use it to uncover a hip new place for your daily morning espresso and even check if it has free Wi-Fi.

Starting next week, Londoners will be able to access Live View, a Google Maps feature that lets you point your phone’s camera at places to see relevant information (think store opening times and restaurant ratings) and nearby alternatives that aren’t in your immediate view, like clothing or coffee shops lurking around the corner. You’ll see all this info in the form of icons overlaid on top of buildings wherever you point your camera, with additional info including distance, price range, and how busy a place is.

When it arrives in London next week, you’ll be able to tap the camera icon in the Google Maps search bar to see visual results. Make your selection and Maps will show you directions and arrows to help you get there.

Google does this by using augmented reality, which essentially uses the sensors in your camera to add virtual graphics on top of real-world places and objects. It’s the same tech used by Snapchat and Instagram to power filters - and is even rumored to be a part of Apple’s upcoming virtual reality headset.

The new Live View feature will also launch at the same time in Los Angeles, New York, Paris, San Francisco, and Tokyo on Android and iPhone. It’s part of a substantial update to Google Maps that includes some new features that are already available. The most prominent of these is the ability to filter results for nearby electric-vehicle chargers, to only show fast-charging stations. EV drivers will also be able to filter for chargers that offer their EV’s specific plug type, including results for Tesla, CCS (Combo 1 or 2), J1772, wall socket, type 2, and CHAdeMo.