The AR walking navigation feature in Google Maps, which is arguably one of the most useful mobile augmented reality available to consumers, is about to become even more indispensable for travelers.
On Tuesday, Google announced a number of new features for Google Maps, including an extension from Live View to indoor navigation of airports, shopping centers and transit stations.
The new indoor navigation is now available on iOS and Android, but is limited to malls in Chicago, Long Island, Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco, San Jose and Seattle. It will expand to select airports, shopping centers and transit hubs in Tokyo and Zurich in the coming months and will roll out steadily to more cities from there.
“We all know that awkward moment when you walk in the opposite direction of where you want to go. Live View uses AR signals to avoid just that,” Dane Glasgow, vice president of product for Google Maps, said in a statement.
Live View works through what Google calls global localization, using image recognition and machine learning to scan your smartphone’s camera view and match it with images in Google’s massive Street View library. This allows Live View to guide users from point A to point B with directional prompts in AR.
Now Google has adapted AR navigation to determine the height and placement of objects in a building so that users can find points of interest such as elevators, escalators, restrooms and ATMs. The tool now acts as your virtual sherpa for finding boarding gates, baggage claim, check-in desks and ticket offices at airports, platforms at transit stations or shopping mall stores – and what floor they are on.
Originally born as Visual Positioning Service for Tango (ARCore’s predecessor) in 2017, Google has steadily expanded from initial testing with Local Guides in 2019 to an exclusive preview for Pixel and now wider support for Android and iOS. Google added new features during that time, such as calibrating your location in AR and a fast finder that works without navigation.
In my hands-on experience with the app, Live View has proven its worth navigating unfamiliar metropolitan areas, such as Atlanta and Washington, DC. Expanding into the indoor mazes that are airports and shopping centers, Live View just became much more important.