Google Maps Augmented Reality Feature Testing Commences For Selected Users

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The app works quite simple - when you start it, Google wants you to look around to recognize the buildings around you and from then on you just follow the arrows.

The AR-based navigation system uses smartphone's camera, a la Google Lens, to give directions.

According to a report by The Verge, David Pierce from The Wall Street Journal got hands-on experience of the AR navigation feature.

The feature is mindful of your battery drain; the screen darkens when you hold the phone in front of your face too long, and reverts to traditional map view when you put it down.

The future version of the Maps application will let you access a special AR mode through a dedicated button or by lifting your phone.

It looks like the Wall Street Journal was able to demo what it said is "an early version" of Maps with AR. The company first talked about the new experience back in May 2018, and it's finally started to test the system with real users, starting with a small group of Local Guides.

Google introduced a new augmented reality (AR) mode for Maps at I/O 2018 and it was one of the biggest crowd-pleasers at the keynote previous year. The real-time feature is however not meant to be on at all times, as it drains battery and the app even reminds the user to turn the feature off once it knows where to go.

While the feature still relies on Global Positioning System to find out where you are, it uses Street View data to pinpoint your location.

No dates have been set for making it widely available to Map users. The idea is to help users with short-term directions.

The WSJ's David Pierce notes that the feature will likely end up on the AR glasses that many companies are now either working on or selling. However, the commercial release will only happen when the company is "completely satisfied that it's ready".

Google is rolling out a tool called "Your Match", which uses machine learning to determine your location and interests, serving up targeted suggestions for new businesses opening up in your area and more.

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