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.