At the Google I/O 2018,
the company teased how Google Maps can leverage the camera to
overlay walking directions and business listings for an Augmented
Reality (AR) experience via its new
Visual Positioning System (VPS).
Essentially, when your GPS is not enough, VPS will use your
phone’s camera and Google’s extensive back-end data to analyze
your surroundings to estimate your precise position and orientation
to identify where you are with greater accuracy.
There has been no word on this since then, but earlier today,
The Wall Street Journal shared the first look of the upcoming AR
In this demoed version of Google Maps, there is a new “Start
AR” option alongside the traditional “Directions”. Once you
tap on it, the map is replaced by a real-time view of the world
around you along with the traditional overhead map.
The Wall Street Journal Photo: Emily Prapuolenis/The Wall
Users will have to first move their phone around and point the
camera to things around them so that the camera can recognize some
landmarks to calibrate where the user is. The app essentially
matches the recognized landmarks and objects with all the imagery
and data the company has captured with those Street View cars
A moment after the app found me, a set of bold,
can’t-miss-’em 3-D arrows appeared on my phone screen, hovering
in the middle of the street. The arrows pointed right, so I headed
right. That’s when a rectangular blue sign appeared, floating
above the sidewalk: 249 feet until my next turn. At the corner, the
arrows again pointed right, and down the street a phone booth-size
red pin marked my destination. It was as if Maps had drawn my
directions onto the real world, though nobody else could see
Photo: Emily Prapuolenis/The Wall Street Journal
The company has shared with the WSJ that this upcoming feature
is meant for walking directions and not to be used while driving.
There are also a few nifty features to conserve your phone’s
battery life and data usage, for example, lowering your phone will
flip to the standard map while the screen automatically darkens
after a period of time.
The AR feature is particularly useful at the beginning of a
journey when a person usually starts walking in a particular
direction only to realize that he/she is going the opposite way or
when one gets out of the subway and isn’t sure of which
direction, he/she needs to head to. By making use of the smartphone
camera, Google Maps will get a more-detailed sense of where you are
and where you need to go.
While this definitely looks exciting, most of us will have to
wait a little longer before we can take it for a spin. The feature
will be rolling out soon to a few Local Guides, the most active
reviewers and users of Google Maps, and will come to everyone at a
later stage since the company thinks it needs a lot more testing
before the experience is ready for a broader availability.