Google Maps AR mode is the update that can’t come soon enough

Google is preparing to roll out a major update to Google Maps, which will bring AR (augmented reality) directions to the app.

The functionality was shown off during the Google I/O opening keynote last summer, having been introduced as ‘Walking Navigation’. The gasps and whoops that greeted the reveal suggest the presentation went down rather well.

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The idea is that Google Maps would guide you through your camera, with AR directions and street names appearing on your phone’s screen, laid out on top of the real world. The search giant is also experimenting with an animated guide you’ll be able to follow, in order to reach your destination.

Google says the system relies on something it calls VPS − the visual positioning system − which can work out your location using visual cues.

You can watch the unveil below (from the 1:25:03 mark):

“Let me paint a familiar picture,” said Aparna Chennapragada, the VP Google Lens and AR, at the time. “You exit the subway, you’re already running late for an appointment − or a tech company conference. That happens. And then your phone says ‘Head south on Market Street’.

“So what do you do? One problem − you have no idea which way is south. So you look down at the phone, you’re looking at that blue dot on the map, and you start to walk to see if it’s moving in the same direction. If it’s not, you’re turning around. We’ve all been there.

“So we asked ourselves: well, what if the camera can help us here?”

google maps ar update

Image Credit: Google/YouTube

The Wall Street Journal’s David Pierce got to try out a development version of the feature over the weekend (via The Verge), and says it will roll out to “a few Local Guides” in the near future, and “will come to everyone only when Google is satisfied that it’s ready.”

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However, unfinished as it may be, it sounds good already. Pierce described it as “a huge step in the right direction for Google Maps”, and said “It was as if Maps had drawn my directions onto the real world, though nobody else could see them.”

Is Walking Navigation on Google Maps something you think you’ll find useful? Let us know on Twitter @TrustedReviews.