Google Map's Live View is a hugely impressive augmented reality feature, enabling you to point your phone at the real world and see Google data on top of it. And now Google is rolling out Search With Live View to iPhones and Android phones to make it even more useful.
The new feature is limited to a handful of global cities: London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris, San Francisco and Tokyo. Google won't confirm plans for other places but it's no doubt working on it.
What does Google Search With Live View do?
Here's how Google describes it: you're in New York and want to do some shopping and hang out with friends. "Lift your phone and tap on the camera icon in the search bar to see nearby stores and other places like coffee shops, banks and ATMs. With AR-powered directions and arrows, you can see what direction they’re in and how far away they are — and even spot places that aren’t in your immediate view (like a clothing store around the block) to get a true sense of the neighborhood at a glance."
That's pretty clever, but the killer app for me is that it overlays the key information that you need to know, for example whether it's open right now, how busy it is and whether other Google users think it's a hive of villainy.
That's not the only update Google is rolling out. There's a new charging station finder for electric vehicles, and the brilliant Accessible Places feature has now been rolled out globally after successful pilots in the UK, US, Australia and Japan.
Accessible Places is a boon for wheelchair users, people with restricted mobility and parents with prams: it can tell you if the place is accessible, if there are accessible toilets and seating, and even how close to the venue you can park. If a location doesn't already have that information you can add it yourself right there in the app.
As much as I love the gee-whiz features of Search With Live View, I think the Accessible Places is much more important: it might not look sci-fi in an animated screenshot, but it's something that'll help make life easier for millions of people.