Google Maps adds 3D immersive view for London

How London looks in Google Maps immersive view (Google)
How London looks in Google Maps immersive view (Google)

The UK capital is about to look radically different in Google Maps.

The popular GPS app is adding a 3D digital model of London that lets you soar across the skies to find the best local attractions, Google announced on Wednesday.

Originally revealed last May, the immersive view feature is designed to give you a better idea of a place or location to help you plan your visit. Google created the 3D model using advanced computer vision and AI, known as “neural radiance fields”, to combine its billions of street view and aerial images.

Searching for a place will allow you to explore the skyline in 360 degrees and get close to venues you are interested in. You’ll also be able to use a time slider to view what an area looks like at different times of the day, in various weather conditions, and see where the busy spots are.

To get closer to a destination, you can slide down to street level to go inside nearby restaurants. This will allow you to see what the lighting is like inside a local eaterie before a date or the view from your chosen cafe.

“With neural radiance fields, we can accurately recreate the full context of a place including its lighting, the texture of materials and what’s in the background,” said Chris Phipps, Google’s general manager of Geo.

Immersive view is going live imminently on Google Maps in London, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Tokyo.

An additional feature called indoor live view will overlay information on top of the real world using augmented reality graphics at London airports, the company said. So, the next time you’re at Heathrow, for instance, you’ll be able to switch to the AR-powered view to see large arrows pointing to the nearest toilets, lounges, taxi stands, car rentals and more.

The feature will be available at 1,000 airports, train stations, and malls in the coming months in cities including Barcelona, Berlin, Frankfurt, London, Madrid, Melbourne, Paris, Prague, São Paulo, Singapore, Sydney and Taipei.

Google Maps is now 18 years old and has over a billion users, the company revealed.

Google immersive view will show you more information when you select a 3D location (Google)
Google immersive view will show you more information when you select a 3D location (Google)

Google announced the updates at its Live from Paris event on Wednesday, where it also revealed new visual search and translation features. Among the upcoming updates is the ability to search whatever is on your Android phone screen using Google Lens, including apps and photo messages. With it, you’ll be able to long-press the power or home button to look up a landmark in a holiday pic from your mates, for example. Lens will try to identify what’s in the image and show you relevant search results from the web.

While Google’s new translation features include more contextual information, such as descriptions and examples, which could prove helpful for words that have multiple meanings. The update will initially support English, French, German, Japanese and Spanish in the coming weeks.

The Translate app for iOS is also getting a redesign to match its recent makeover on Android, which should make it easier to navigate between languages and more readable thanks to dynamic fonts. It will come with 33 new languages including Basque, Corsican, Hawaiian, Hmong, Kurdish, Latin, Luxembourgish, Sundanese, Yiddish and Zulu.

However, the Paris event was notably light on details about its new Bard chatbot. Google confirmed the existence of its text-based assistant earlier this week amid rumblings that it was frantically preparing to launch a ChatGPT rival. The company said that the bot will be added to Google Search in the coming weeks after it goes through some rigorous testing designed to fix any potential bugs.

Built by US research firm OpenAI, ChatGPT uses information from the internet to answer queries and follow-up questions as part of back-and-forth conversations. Alongside composing emails and summarising lengthy articles, it can also make funny quips.

In a bid to challenge Google’s search dominance, OpenAI investor Microsoft is adding an updated version of ChatGPT to its Bing search engine and Edge web browser.