Google Maps users can now navigate with AR


When Google announced a new live augmented reality feature for navigating within Maps, directionally challenged users rejoiced. While it has been available on Pixel phones since March, it will now be rolling out to most Androids and iPhones.

For users strolling around an unfamiliar city, the AR feature, dubbed Live View, is a game-changer. It may also be the most useful AR application ever put into the hands of everyday consumers. While things like Snapchat filters are fun, AR tools like this are truly the direction of the future.

Never Get Lost

Live View helps solve a major problem for those struggling to find their way around. Typically, when starting walking navigation, a phone’s compass will spin around wildly before taking a guess at which way its user should start walking. Unfortunately, this compass is highly unreliable due to the electrical components and actual magnets within the phone.

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Google takes a different approach to this problem by using the smartphone camera to give users a heading. The new feature works by identifying nearby buildings and street signs. Interestingly, this is only possible because Google has years of built-up data from its Street View program that Maps can rely on.

This means it is highly unlikely there will be a similar feature from any competitors in the near future. Not that anyone is really using a navigation app other than Maps anyway.

After Live View establishes a position, it displays an AR overlay. This includes large arrows and a virtual street sign that help point users in the right direction. While it’s a little unnatural to walk around holding a smartphone up and pointing it around, disoriented users probably won’t worry about that too much.

Select AR Phones

The new feature is here to replace the built-in phone compass that never really works when trying to follow walking directions. Now, users can take advantage of a Visual Positioning System (VPS) to help determine which direction their first step should be in.

Like Google’s interactive animal discovery feature, Live View will only be available to phones running ARCore or ARKit. Fortunately, this includes most recent-generation flagship phones from major manufacturers like Samsung, Moto, LG, OnePlus, and more. Of course, new iPhones will also be capable of running the feature.

Live View is now rolling out to enabled phones and should be available to everyone within the next week. Users with an updated Maps app should see a button near the bottom of the screen that will trigger the feature. If for some reason it doesn’t show up, users can check their app for an update. If that still isn’t available, they may have to be patient for a few extra days. Never fear, the feature will roll out soon.

In all, Live View is a truly innovative feature that shows off what AR integration is capable of. Without being too flashy, it is probably the most useful AR tool available to consumers today.