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AR might be the best thing that ever happened to Google Maps

Published Apr 25th, 2019 3:57PM EDT
Google Maps AR
Image: EMILY PRAPUOLENIS/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Google Maps is one of the most dependable navigation apps available, and a must-have on all smartphones, even if they ship with a different default maps app.

Google has been adding a bunch of nifty features to the app that makes navigation even better, whether you’re driving, walking, or using public transportation. But the app will soon get an amazing feature that’s currently in testing: Augmented reality (AR) support. And AR will significantly improve walking with Google Maps.

We’ve all been there; we’ve all used Google Maps or other map apps to find our ways in a new city while traveling, or in a part of town that we’re not familiar with. And while it works most of the time, it can be a tedious process. You have to pay attention to the things around you, and keep checking the phone to see whether you’re where you need to be.

With the dawn of AR, Google Maps navigation will get a lot more fun. The walking directions will be overlaid on top of a live image of your surroundings. Check out the following photo that was posted on Reddit. You’ll no longer have to switch between looking at the phone and at the road ahead. Google Maps will combine information from your camera and the phone’s GPS to show you where you are, and where you need to turn.

Image source: Reddit

One downside to using Google Maps AR for walking directions is that it’ll use more battery life than regular navigation. But Redditors who’ve used it say that for walking directions, you only need to use it 5-10 seconds at a time. The app forces you to put down the phone until the next direction, a Redditor added.

To enable Google Maps AR directions on your phone, you’ll need to make sure your device supports AR Core, and that you’re a Google Maps beta tester and “at least level 5 Local Guide,” according to a Redditor.

The feature isn’t available everywhere, for the time being, so even if you’re eligible to test it, you might not be able to. But Redditors from the US, Turkey, UK, Spain, Russia, and Germany said they’ve already used it. It’s unclear when this Google Maps feature will roll out to all Android and iPhone users, but maps and navigation is an arena where augmented reality actually makes a whole lot of sense.

Chris Smith
Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he closely follows the events in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises. Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.