Google Maps AR navigation review: Early users share their experience

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Using Google Maps for walking directions is arguably more difficult than following the magical blue dot while driving a vehicle. Though the Google Maps app shows a cone of view indicator to tell you which way you’re facing, it’s not uncommon to find that the blue dot itself has got your location wrong – especially in ‘urban canyons’.

In fact, if you go by the study released by location data company PlaceIQ, the average variance of smartphone positioning in a city is roughly 93 feet – varying from a low of 1-meter inaccuracy to a whopping high of 204 meters!

GPS signals bouncing off facades in an urban environment. Image courtesy: Google

So, when Google Maps made augmented reality-powered navigation available to all Local Guides Level 5 and above for testing earlier this month, we were quite stoked. First announced at its I/O Developer conference in May 2018, this nifty new feature uses your smartphone camera as a sensor and combines Visual Positioning Service (VPS), Street View, and machine learning technologies to identify your position and orientation more accurately than ever.

Simply put, Google Maps is giving you the ability to overlay walking directions over real-world environments. And it looks something like this:

Also noteworthy is the emphasis the company has put on the safety of the users. For example, the app prompts you to hold the phone down when you’re walking straight, lest you bump into lamp posts or other people! If you ignore this instruction, the screen would automatically become dim – not a bad thing for a functionality that could actually prove to be a serial battery-drainer.

However, the strain on the phone’s battery is not the only limitation of this new technology. Google has its work cut out to make AR-enhanced walking directions work everywhere, such as in low light conditions, snowstorms, or heavy rains. Which is why it would be sometime before the feature is released to the public at large. But those who are helping Google test the technology have been raving about the resourcefulness of AR-powered navigation.

Are you among the lucky few who have access to AR Walking Navigation in Google Maps? We would love to hear what you think about the feature in the comments!

Ishveena is a geospatial enthusiast and a veteran of creating and managing compelling digital content for organizations and individuals. When she is not making magic at her desk, you are likely to find her exploring nature, eating her way through life, or binge-watching funny animal videos.