The AR walking navigation feature in Google Maps, which is arguably one of the most useful mobile augmented reality to available to consumers, is about to get even more indispensable for travelers.
On Tuesday, Google announced a number of new features coming to Google Maps, chief among them an expansion of Live View to indoor navigation of airports, malls, and transit stations.
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The new indoor navigation is available now via iOS and Android, but it is limited to malls in Chicago, Long Island, Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco, San Jose, and Seattle. It will expand to select airports, malls, and transit hubs in Tokyo and Zurich over the next few months and will continue to roll out steadily to more cities from there.
"We all know that awkward moment when you're walking in the opposite direction of where you want to go — Live View uses AR cues to avoid just that," said Dane Glasgow, vice president of product for Google Maps, in a statement.
Live View works via what Google calls global localization, which uses 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 enables Live View to guide users from point A to point B with directional prompts in AR.
Now, Google has tweaked the AR navigation to determine altitude and object placement within a building, helping users to 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 counters, and ticket offices in airports, platforms at transit stations, or stores in a mall -- and which floor they are on.
Initially born as Visual Positioning Service for Tango (the predecessor to ARCore) in 2017, Google has steadily expanded from initial testing with Local Guides in 2019 to an exclusive preview for Pixel and now broader support across Android and iOS. Google has added new capabilities over that span, such as calibrating your location in AR and a quick view finder that works without navigation.
In my practical experience with the app, Live View has demonstrated its value in navigating unfamiliar urban areas, such as Atlanta and Washington, DC. By expanding to the indoor mazes that are airports and malls, Live View just became much more essential.