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Anyone can access Google Maps AR navigation feature with this phone

It’s been almost exactly a year since Google first promised us an augmented reality-aided navigation feature in its Maps product. The time to make good on that promise has arrived and the tech giant is delivering by rolling out AR-powered walking directions to Pixel smartphones in an ‘early preview’ mode.

In March, Google had made this functionality available to all Local Guides Level 5 and above for testing, and those users couldn’t stop raving about the resourcefulness of AR-guided navigation. Those early reviews had us all looking forward to the mass rollout of this exciting feature. But for now, it looks like only Pixel device users are going to enjoy next-gen walking directions. Google is yet to commit a date for when the feature will become available to all users.

How does Google Maps AR Navigation work?

In case you are wondering what the fuss is all about, AR navigation works on a concept which Google is calling global localization. With powerful machine learning algorithms running under the hood, the technique uses your mobile phone’s camera as a sensor to identify your position and orientation much more accurately than plain old GPS.

Instead of using GPS signals, Google Maps AR navigation feature determines the location of your phone by analyzing the key visual features, such as the outline of buildings or bridges, around you. It then searches for this imagery in Google Maps’ rich Street View repository and uses those reference points to apply triangulation.

Why your phone GPS may be inaccurate

The current GPS technology relies on measuring the delay of radio signals from multiple dedicated satellites to determine your precise location, and that is its biggest limitation.

“In dense urban environments like New York or San Francisco, it can be incredibly hard to pinpoint a geographic location due to low visibility to the sky and signals reflecting off of buildings. This can result in highly inaccurate placements on the map, meaning that your location could appear on the wrong side of the street, or even a few blocks away,” Tilman Reinhardt‎, Software Engineer, Google Maps, writes in a blog post.

Do you own a Pixel device? Do let us know your experience in comments. And if you do not, we highly recommend you borrow one from a friend or colleague to test out this awesome new Google Maps feature, just like they did:

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Uber IPO values it at $82.4 billion, much less than expected

Commuting between destinations has got totally redefined in the past few years. Thanks to innovators like Uber, travelling between destinations have become a hassle-free, timely and affordable experience for all. Facilitated by GPS, this location-based app makes reaching no destination a peril for the common man. However, things have not gone as expected for this amazing start-up since a long time. A recent blow is that with a price of $45 per share, Uber IPO has valued it at $82.4 billion, much less than what was expected.

The Story behind Uber

Uber’s story began in Paris in 2008 when two friends, Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, after attending the LeWeb, an annual tech conference organized by The Economist, faced difficulty in getting a cab. Both of them had already been involved in entrepreneurial stints. While Camp had sold StumbleUpon to eBay for $75 million, Kalanick had sold Red Swoosh to Akamai Technologies for $19 million. The idea of launching a cab service stayed with Camp even after the conference, and he bought the domain name UberCab.com.

In 2009, Kalanick joined as UberCab’s ‘Chief Incubator’. The duo tested the cab service in New York in early 2010 using only three cars, and the official launch took place in San Francisco in May.

In October 2010, the company received its first major funding, $1.25 million from First Round Capital. However, the rising star faced its own share of hardships, starting with a cease-and-desist order from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency in October 2010. The main issue of contention was the use of the word ‘cab’ in ‘UberCab’. This led to the change in name – ‘UberCab’ became ‘Uber’.

The start-up that changed the way people travelled, eventually received a lot of funding from varied investors viz. a $11 million Series A round of funding from Benchmark Capital, $37 million in Series B funding from Menlo Ventures, Jeff Bezos, and Goldman Sachs and $3.5 billion from Saudi Arabia’s Wealth Fund. The flowing funds led to fast expansion of the services to New York, Seattle, Boston, Chicago, Washington D.C., Paris. In 2012, Uber launched UberX, as an alternative to the black car service.

All is not rosy

However, all is not good with the innovative start-up as it appears. In April 2017, Uber  reported a global loss of $3.8 billion for 2016. The smart start-up knew how to bounce back. It shifted focus on UberPool — the carpooling service, and this move led to a revenue increase of 76%, while losses increased 5%.

Thereby, Uber saw rapid growth, but controversies related to the safety of the passengers brought its valuation from $70 billion to $48 billion in its last funding round in January 2018. 2019, brought its own woes with a self-driving Uber vehicle getting involved in a fatal crash, and the New York City Council voting to put a pause on new licenses issued to ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft.

Uber made its first public offering on May 9, 2019 and it didn’t turn out to be as lofty as expected. The company is asking for $45 per share, a price is near the bottom of its expected price range of $44 and $50. This move has valued the company at about $82.4 billion, much less than the expected $100 billion. At $45, Uber aims to raise $8.1 billion for its varied expansion plans.

While the act of going public strengthens Uber’s position as the biggest American technology company of its generation to go public, the low share price has brought disappointment to the investors with bigger dreams for it.

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