“Local Lens” is one of Bing’s cooler features that displays hyperlocal content from various blogs on Bing Maps. Once enabled, snippets from blog posts appear in the sidebar when viewing a specific locale in the maps service. The feature, introduced late last year, is one of Bing’s many “mapplications” – applications that add a new layer of data to Bing Maps. In this case, blog posts from your hometown or, in some cases, specific neighborhoods.
This is one of Bing’s undiscovered gems, I think, since map apps that add Photosynth, Twitter, traffic, and Streetside Photos are the ones getting all the attention these days. Local Lens is certainly deserving of a deeper look too.
I was reminded of Local Lens when Matthew Hurst updated his blog with a note about an update just pushed out on Thursday, the 18th. The backend text mining systems which recognize map entity names (restaurants, shops, etc.) and addresses has been improved, he says. Now, even when an address isn’t obvious (e.g. “123 Main St.”), Local Lens can pick it up. In the example on his blog, he cited an article which read “Irving Street remained closed between 19th and 20th.” Local Lens can identify that more complex expression as an address and hyperlink it to an exact location on the map. Click the link and the map zooms right to that location.
The only downside regarding this technology is that it has just been rolled out for a handful of major U.S. cities for now. At the moment, only Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, L.A., Miami, NYC, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle are supported. I only hope the next update will add more cities soon!