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Google Maps to Improve Walking Navigation with AR Fox and Giant Arrows

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At Google’s I/O Developers conference this week, the company’s Vice President, Aparna Chennapragada, demonstrated how AR could be used to improve navigation when using Google Maps. The result is a cute AR fox and huge arrows to point you in the right direction. 

How often do you find yourself relying on Google Maps yet still managing to get lost? Maybe the blue dot arrow was pointing in the wrong direction or maybe you need a virtual character to help show you the way.

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This is Google’s latest idea for Maps. They’re working on improving the walking navigation section by adding augmented reality (AR). As usual, it works by using the camera on your smartphone to show you which direction to go. To do this, arrows pop up to direct you.

“You instantly know where you are… No fussing with the phone. The street names, the directions, right there in front of you,” explained Google Vice President Aparna Chennapragada during Google’s I/O developers conference this week.

Better yet is the idea of a guide – in Google’s demo, they showed a bouncy fox. However, it’s unclear whether this character will make it to the final update as it is still a work in progress. But, the audience was certainly in awe and Chennapragada’s demo received cheers and claps.

It’s clear that having a visual smartphone overlay would make navigating a new city a lot easier and perhaps more enjoyable as the character would show you nearby bars and restaurants to visit.

Chennapragada displays the AR functionality in the video below – the speech starts from 01:25:00.

Moving from GPS to VPS

Chennapragada explains that currently, GPS isn’t good enough for the arrows and AR fox to work accurately. So, Google has been working on VPS – or “visual positioning system”. This can estimate precisely your position and orientation.

On screen, as well as showing the AR fox, the guiding arrows, and the camera display, there will also be a small semi-circle showing just a section of the map, ensuring you have a vague idea of what street you’re on.

Of course, this technology wouldn’t work so well for driving. But, if you’re someone who regularly uses Google Maps while walking around and don’t mind looking like a tourist taking hundreds of photos, it could work well.

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Unfortunately for those with a poor sense of direction, Google has given no estimate for when this technology will be available. This is likely due to the need to seriously fine-tune VPS so it doesn’t go wrong as often as the GPS blue dot.

For now, it’s an interesting, real-world use case for AR which doesn’t appear to be just a gimmick.

Source: Business Insider

Google Maps
Google Maps

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