Navigation, be it walking through familiar city streets, or while travelling on unfamiliar freeways on a holiday, could never have been as convenient as it is today, had it not been for Maps by Google.
Thanks to the union of Augmented Reality and Machine Learning by the great minds at Google, for they have given us a new revolution in travel navigation. The company first announced the feature at Google I/O 2018.
With the help of augmented reality, we can see virtual objects or images layered over the real world, which is captured by a phone’s primary rear camera and the final result being displayed on our phone’s screen.
The new Augmented Reality Street-View mode of Google Maps combines Computer Vision and Google’s existing Street View and Maps data with a live feed from your phone’s primary rear camera. This overlays walking directions on top of the real world view and helps you figure out which way you need to go by scanning buildings and structures around you, looking for landmarks and better locality synchronization.
For your convenience, the AR mode has a giant virtual marker and small arrows pointing towards your destination, along with audio notifications for directions, and displaying street names, distance and time to reach your destination. A map is also visible on the lower half of the screen, leading to a better understanding of your route.
While you’re walking, Google Maps will tell you to put your phone down at regular intervals, so that you can clearly see where you’re going and avoid any accidents. If you do so, the Maps app will go back to the normal navigation screen, but as soon as you bring your phone back up, it will automatically resume the AR Mode.
Furthermore, you can also see nearby places around you like restaurants, offices and other prominent establishments, in the direction where you point your phone’s primary rear camera.
However, the AR Mode is exclusive to Google’s Pixel phones at the moment, including the new Pixel 3A. It is likely that AR Mode will become a staple feature in Google Maps for all Android smartphones eventually.
Also, it’s only available for outdoor use and in areas with recently published Street View images. It is not available in India as of now. As the phone’s primary rear camera is needed to recognize buildings, it’s not optimized to work in low-light environments yet.
Further enhancements include the idea of a virtual guide in form of an animated 3D Fox, which will walk in front of us, leading us to our destination. The wait for the AR mode to roll out on all Android smartphones seems difficult, but the wait for it, although long, seems totally worth it!