Google Maps is the go-to app for all navigation needs, at least in most parts of the world. The web giant's mapping software keeps improving to offer the best guidance to tourists and people trying to get from one place to another, but the best feature is yet to arrive.
At Google I/O conference in May last year, Google demonstrated the coolest feature in Google Maps, utilising augmented reality (AR) to show directions. But months have passed and Google hasn't offered any update in Maps that makes use of AR during navigations.
Google Maps with AR uses the phone's camera to show directions, restaurant listings, local grocery stores and other helpful guides by overlaying the info on the camera screen. The new feature uses Google Street View data to overlay visual cues on your live camera feed. The demonstration of the feature at the I/O conference was exciting, and it looks like AR mode in Google Maps is nearing an official rollout.
The Wall Street Journal tested an early version of Google Maps with AR and shared some insights on how the new and upcoming feature works in the real world. According to David Pierce of WSJ, the AR feature in Google Maps requires users to hold the camera up and point to a few nearby points so it can analyse the landmarks, which it did in few seconds and realised where it was "with remarkable precision."
Google Maps with AR shows a dedicated button to launch the special AR mode, which opens up the camera interface and then starts analysing the surroundings. There's a clear warning message displayed repeatedly when AR mode is in use, which reads: "For your safety, keep your phone down while you walk."
It's natural for people to get lost in the concentration when using augmented reality apps, for instance, Pokemon Go. The warning is a good reminder of why its users must safely use the feature while being alert of the surroundings.
While Google Maps with AR sounds incredibly cool, it's a feature that is not coming any time soon. According to Google, the futuristic feature will roll out to local guides soon but everyone else must wait until Google thinks it's fully ready. This is important for Google as in no way AR integration should backfire and result in a buggy Google Maps app. Consider yourself lucky if you've got access to the beta version of AR mode in Google Maps.