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Home / Tips and Tricks / Hands-On with Google Maps Walking AR Navigation Experiment, a look at our Smartglasses Future «Mobile AR News :: Next Reality

Hands-On with Google Maps Walking AR Navigation Experiment, a look at our Smartglasses Future «Mobile AR News :: Next Reality



While Google is not prepared to embark on a broad release of the AR navigation mode for Google Maps, the company has started testing the feature with members of its local Guides crowdsourcing community.

As a result, we had the opportunity to test an alphabetical building of the real-world function (and log in some necessary steps in the process). And I cannot stress enough that this is a very early version. As such, this is a collection of impressions of the experience rather than a review.

Pictures of Tommy Palladino / Next Reality

The AR navigation option comes via a button next to the regular start button and on the routing overview screen with a cubic symbol that has become a common symbol for AR across multiple platforms. When the AR navigation starts, the traditional map interface on the bottom of the app, presses the camera key that takes over the top half.

In the same way as ARKit and ARCore discover surfaces, users are instructed to scan their surroundings for buildings and street signs to orient the app to the users' environment. AR Navigation in Google Maps signals the completion of this process with a pop in Google-colored dots that indicate identified points in the app's view of the environment.

Pictures of Tommy Palladino / Next Reality [19659006] The AR navigation is pretty simple. With orientation, instructions were obtained in the camera viewpoint in order for users to turn their devices in the right direction. When oriented, users will see a blue sign indicating the distance to the next trip. Each turn is equipped with large directional arrows that flash in the known combination of blue, red, yellow and green. Finally, when users come to their destinations, a map card appears at the bottom of the screen.

When I have previously used AR nav apps, AR navigation has always been known as a feature that is much better suited to smartglasses. Generally, it is simply not a good user experience because of the "always on" feature, but the users are constantly holding a smartphone (much less a tablet) in front of their faces as they go.

Pictures of Tommy Palladino / Next Reality [19659006] Google has acknowledged this failure and actually addressed it as part of the new experience. When users start their way, they are advised not to keep their devices in front of them as they go. If users ignore this initial instruction, the screen will darken. When a user lifts his device, the app repeats the orientation process.

Another caution with regard to usability is the fact that the experience works best during the day, which can be expected given that the app is dependent on identifying landmarks in the camera view. In night environments with sufficient lighting, the system can find its mark. In addition, in my limited testing, I found that the function was a bit of a battery chicken, but it's not a surprise given how much viewing time, plus camera operation, plus machine learning algorithm functions in use when using the app

Pictures by Tommy Palladino / Next Reality

Google is not the first company to starts a mobile AR navigation experience, with Hotstepper and Blippers AR City among their predecessors. But Google's taste of AR navigation stands as an important milestone for the development of AR as a consumer platform.

Google Maps is still the best mapping app in the US with a large margin, according to Statista, with the Google-owned Waze seat at second place. That kind of scale is what the AR industry needs to get AR in the hands of consumers and get them accustomed to AR as a practical tool in their everyday life before the smart class market matures.

It is also a high water mark for AR cloud concept. Of course, Google presents this as a single feature of Google Maps, but the company has primarily promoted Street View as a digital copy of the world as a marker for its computer viewing capability, and now spreads sustained AR content to it. Along with ARCore, its Cloud Anchors multiplayer protocols for iOS and Android, and its Google Maps API for site-based AR apps, Google could have been taken by an agnostic AR cloud platform for the device.

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