Google Maps' AR Mode is almost ready for prime time - and it looks to be the best Maps update yet. The augmented-reality tool uses your phone's camera to 'paint' signs and arrows over your real-world location. In other words, scratching your head at 2D maps could soon be a thing of the past.
If you're topographically challenged, the next version of Google Maps is going to transform your life. For the first time, the web mapping service will provide AR integration, with directional graphics overlaid on your phone’s camera display so you never walk in the wrong direction again.
The app is chiefly designed with walkers in mind. It works via a combination of Google Street View and GPS to pinpoint the user's exact location. It then creates virtual signposts to point them in the right direction as well as providing information about nearby points of interest.
Crucially, the graphics are large enough to see in your peripheral vision. With any luck, this should reduce the likelihood of walking blithely into other pedestrians and oncoming traffic.
For those who prefer a more personal touch, there will also be some Pokemon Go-style 'virtual guides' on offer. This will reportedly include a cute animated fox whose path you need to follow. (Yes, Google chose the mascot of arch rival Firefox for this feature. Go figure.)
The New York Times' David Pearce recently tested an early beta version of the product and was suitably impressed.
“It was as if Maps had drawn my directions onto the real world, though nobody else could see them,” Pierce explained. Despite being a work in progress, the app was able to lock down his position in relation to nearby landmarks with "remarkable precision".
According to Google, AR Mode is not intended to replace the regular version of Google Maps. Instead, you're supposed to use it get your bearings at the beginning of a journey, before reverting to the 2D interface.
This was reiterated by Pearce, who conceded AR “isn’t likely to be your primary turn-by-turn option." “It’s for those moments like, "I’m getting off the subway, where do I go first?"
Naturally, you can relaunch it at any time if you happen to lose your bearings.
Currently, Google Maps AR has only been made available to a tiny portion of users. There's no word on when the beta will roll out to the wider testing community. Google has indicated it won't release the update until "it’s ready".
With that said, it's worth noting that the company showcased the app way back in May last year. This suggests that the wait won't be too much longer.
You can check out a demonstration of the app at Google I/O below:
[Via New York Times]