This free Google Maps update gives you the vibes

Google Maps embraces the power of crowdsourcing to let you know what places are really like

Google Maps vibe check
(Image credit: Google)

Whether you're thinking of moving or just visiting, some places have a very different vibe than you might expect. Sometimes that's good – a place that doesn’t look like much could be a thriving cultural centre with brilliant places to eat and hang out – and sometimes not so much, so for example a picture-perfect place may feel more like the centre of a zombie apocalypse when the sun goes down. Google Maps can't quite tell you whether there's a zombie infestation, but its new Neighborhood Vibe feature can help you find the gems and avoid awfulness.

According to the official Google blog (opens in new tab), "To determine the vibe of a neighborhood, we combine AI with local knowledge from Google Maps users who add more than 20 million contributions to the map each day — including reviews, photos and videos. Neighborhood vibe starts rolling out globally in the coming months on Android and iOS."

I think one of the most interesting uses of this is going to be with services such as Airbnb: it's usually pretty easy to work out what big hotels' immediate surroundings are like, because they tend to be in tourist areas. But individual apartments are more of a lottery in my experience, and I can think of a few places I might not have booked had I known more about their location – and some restaurants I'd have booked if I'd only known in advance that they were there.

See more with Maps

The Vibe Check feature is rolling out alongside improvements to Live View that'll make it even easier to see what a place is like. Live View uses your phone camera to show you directions over the actual places you're in, and now the technology behind it is going to offer Search With Live View. As you can probably deduce from the name,. that means you can simply point your phone at things and see what you're looking for – the nearest free cash machine, for example, or the nearest subway stop. And the search will also bring in additional information so you'll be able to see what time that shop shuts or how busy that pub is.

This one's a really big upgrade and inevitably that means it isn't coming to all of us everywhere just yet. It'll roll out in the next few months in London, Los Angeles, New York, San Fransisco, Paris and Tokyo in Google Maps for both Android and iOS. Google will also be rolling out 250 new aerial views of global landmarks such as the Tokyo Tower and the Acropolis. 

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written thirteen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote another seven books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com (opens in new tab)).