Google Announces Beta Testing of Augmented Reality Walking Directions in Maps App
You may never get lost again once Google Maps' new AR feature hits the market.
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As anyone who has used Google Maps’ walking navigation feature in a major city can attest, the app doesn’t always get it right. Relying on GPS technology to guide users from one precise location to another can be a rather tenuous endeavor in an urban environment, where visibility from the ground can be low and GPS signals are often interrupted by tall structures.
“We’re experimenting with a way to solve this problem using a technique we call global localization, which combines Visual Positioning Service (VPS), Street View, and machine learning to more accurately identify position and orientation. Using the smartphone camera as a sensor, this technology enables a more powerful and intuitive way to help people quickly determine which way to go,” the company said Monday on the Google AI Blog.
In order to more accurately pinpoint a device’s location, VPS compares the physical features seen through the camera’s lens to those recorded in Street View data. Machine learning then ties it all together by “automatically decid[ing] which features to pay attention to, prioritizing features that are likely to be permanent parts of the scene and ignoring things like trees, dynamic light movement, and construction that are likely transient.”
Google Maps’ accuracy, however, isn’t the only feature of the app getting an upgrade. “This increased precision has enabled the possibility of a number of new experiences,” wrote Google software engineer Tim Reinhardt, including “the ability to use ARCore, Google's platform for building augmented reality experiences, to overlay directions right on top of Google Maps when someone is in walking navigation mode.”
If Business Insider’s test drive of this new feature is to be believed, it may very well revolutionize how people navigate their communities. While the feature is only being beta tested with select Local Guides at the moment, its impending release already has some analysts asking the question: “Is Google Maps what augmented reality has been waiting for” to finally make it big in the mainstream?
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