Have you ever traveled to a new city or an unfamiliar spot in Boston, opened Google Maps to make sure you are walking the correct way, only to find out a few minutes later you began your walk turning the wrong direction? We’ve all been in this situation. Google may have found the solution for us. Let me introduce Google Maps with VR.
How it Works
Imagine Google Maps but with a live view of where you are headed. When looking to use the augmented reality version, tilt your phone in the upright position as if you were snapping a picture. Leveraging your GPS location, the app uses Street View data to narrow your exact location and displays arrows on your screen to make sure you are on track and heading in the right direction.
As you can see in the photo to the left, the real world in front of you takes up most of the screen, which the standard walking map is displayed in a small circle in the bottom of the phone screen. Per Google’s user-experience lead Rachel Inman, “it’s for those moments like, ‘I’m getting off the subway, where do I go first?’” It’s essentially built for those quick moments of confusion which could end up saving users the headache of walking the wrong way. The phone must be tilted upward because the feature tries to understand your location based on imagery around you such as buildings, landmarks and signs. Pointing at objects such as trees and bushes won’t work as well, mainly due to fact of changing sizes and colors during seasons.
Potential Issues for Concern
It’s widely known that people already cannot handle walking with technology in their hands. Every once in a while we hear stories of pedestrians being hit by cars because they were looking down at phones; just the other week someone fell into a manhole while glued to a phone!
So now we are going to throw augmented reality into pedestrians’ hands?! Well Google thinks they already have a few proactive solutions to prevent accidents. An alert will pop up on your phone after a few moments, telling the user to put their phone down while walking. This is crucial, as you are always sharing the sidewalk with fellow pedestrians and the occasional
bicyclist and folks on scooters. Not to worry, while a user’s phone is down, the app will revert back to the ‘standard’ maps view. The company decided to go with arrows instead of the blue dots and lines used in the standard view due to the fact users will try stand on the lines exactly while heading to their destination.
One question in which I could not find an answer to: How does Google ensure users are not using this version while driving? Obviously the app can pick up when a user is traveling 70 miles per hour in walking mode but in a city when drivers are crawling block to block, the app could be confused and be led to believe the user is traveling on foot. The version is still in its early stages and like every new product or service, will have its kinks to work out. The arrow animations and imagery can be construed at some points depending on the angle of which the user’s phone is held at.
This is a huge step for Google to take in the augmented reality world. The AR feature is currently only open to a select handful of local guides to provide the company with feedback and in turn, further improvements. Google is committed to ensuring the feature will not be released to the general population until they are satisfied it is ready. I think we can all appreciate the fact that Google wants the first release to be its best possible, and not one that will cause a firestorm with a public apology tour.
How can Google make more money through its AR navigation? It can work with businesses to place advertisements in its AR view. For instance, picture yourself in AR mode and you pass a Starbucks. The actual Starbucks logo can pop up on your screen and could promote its coffee or even a coupon to use within ‘x’ amount of minutes. This example can be used across any business or industry, bringing millions of dollars in revenue to Google. It is interesting to note the AR glasses trend has been extremely quiet over the past few years. Many companies are still working on or selling AR glasses. I agree with the end of the Verge article above that Google will end up adding this new feature into a set of AR glasses.
I know the AR capability is for walking only, but this new feature could bring users back that are committed to using Waze, Apple maps, and other navigation apps while driving.
What do you think? Would you take advantage of this AR capability once it’s available?