At last year’s annual developer conference, Google announced that it would add a cool new AR navigation feature to its Maps platform especially aimed at people commuting often by walk in unknown locations. What it basically does is show huge directional arrows on your screen with the live view in the background, helping you to navigate your way through buildings and landmarks. While initial reports suggested that it may not work in India just as yet, as it would rely on the Street View data which isn’t present in India, we recently got to test out the feature on our device in Bangalore, India and it looks pretty cool.
What is Google Maps AR Navigation?
Since street view data isn’t available in the country, Google seems to be using local data of shops or established business or places of common interest in order to provide these AR based navigation directions. Do note that this feature is only supported for walking directions, as it’s generally hard to pick up GPS signals when one is surrounded by tall buildings, or in cases where there are multiple exits or roads and you’re not sure which one to pick.
Given the fact that GPS trackers in almost every smartphone (with the exception of dual-band GPS antennas found on few phones) are said to be accurate only up to 30 meters from one’s precise location, a feature like this is bound to be helpful to avoid confusion in case of miscalibration. It seems not all devices support this new feature.
How does AR Navigation work?
In countries like the US, Google has a database of street view maps which is technically a picturized version/replica of how each street looks like. Using this data and the user’s current location on the map, Google is able to provide directions turn-by-turn in the form of AR banners that appear on the screen when you point your phone to the buildings around you which it then matches with its street view maps.
In countries like India, it seems like Google is using the local data provided by most local businesses and common public places as they’re all registered on Google Maps. Hence, when you point your phone at the buildings around you, Google maps out your current position and displays AR banners on your screen. Quite smart!
Here’s a short demo of how the feature works in India.
Oh wow! The @googlemaps AR feature actually works in India too. I thought they would need Street Maps data for this to work, but no. They are using Google Local data of shops it seems. @techpp pic.twitter.com/JhsNW67q87
— Raju PP (@rajupp) March 23, 2019
How can you enable AR Navigation?
Presently, this feature is in its Alpha stages and has not been rolled out publicly yet. If you are a Google Maps Local Guide, you may be able to test this feature out, but at the moment, very few devices have this ability. However, you can still check if your account/device supports it by opening the Maps app and searching for a destination and then selecting walking directions. If you find an icon on the bottom left like the one shown in the image above, congrats, you can test this feature out! If not, you will have to wait for the public roll-out to happen, which will take place only when Google has perfected this feature.
Let us know what you think about AR Navigation and if you will use it on a regular basis if and when it is introduced to the masses.