I just tried Google's brand new augmented reality Maps on a one mile walk through San Francisco, and I miss it already
Nick Bastone / Business Insider
- On Monday, the Google Maps team gave Business Insider the chance to try out its new AR feature for pedestrian maps, which the company first announced at its developer conference last May.
- The company says the feature is in an "alpha" state and for now, will only be available to "local guides."
- Even without a definite public release date, we were anxious to see if AR could actually improve the Google Maps experience.
- Below we describe what it was like to use the new Google Maps AR feature on the streets of San Francisco.
Anyone visiting a new city knows the confusion of emerging from a subway station and trying to figure out in which direction to turn.
Even with your maps app open, orienting yourself in an unfamiliar place can be difficult and lead to some missteps.
Google believes it has solved the problem using augmented reality technology.
On Monday, the Google Maps team gave Business Insider the chance to try out its new AR feature for pedestrian maps, which the company first teased at its developer conference last May. The team says the feature is in an "alpha" state and for now, will only be available to "local guides" - Google Maps enthusiasts who provide useful product feedback.
Even without a definite public release date, we were anxious to see if AR could actually improve the Google Maps experience.
Here's what it was like to use the new Google Maps AR feature on the streets of San Francisco:
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We met members of the Google Maps team at Rincon Park, which is right near the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. We decided we could all use some caffeine, so to test out the new AR feature, we headed to Blue Bottle Coffee on Sansome Street.
This is where the AR magic happens. When you hold your phone up to eye level, the standard map shrinks into a small circle at the bottom of the screen. The majority of your screen shows you the real world that's directly in front of you, as if you were looking through the camera.
But I wasn't able to hold the phone up for too long. For safety purposes, an alert pops up after a few moments of using the AR feature, telling users to put their phones down while they walk.
Still, it was hard not to hold up the phone to check out the new feature and graphics. I did sometimes notice, depending on the angle I held the phone, the arrow animations got a little wonky.
But for the most part, the arrow graphics worked quite nicely.
The "proper" way to use the feature is to walk with your phone down when you know you're on the right path. This will result in the standard Maps view.
When you need to decide where to turn next, you can tilt the phone upwards. Google Maps then tries to understand your location based on the imagery around you.
The feature works best if you point the phone towards more permanent structures, like office buildings or cafes, rather than shrubs or bushes that change their shape and color based on the season.
Once Google knows exactly where you are, it displays arrows on your screen to make sure you're on track and heading in the right direction.
Once you arrive at your destination, a pin-drop will appear with a fun animation to accompany it. Since we were heading to grab a coffee, Google Maps also pulled up information about Blue Bottle in case we wanted to check out photos and reviews before walking in.
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