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Google’s new AR tool helps visualize social distancing guidelines

Published May 28th, 2020 7:33PM EDT
Social distancing
Image: JOHN G MABANGLO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

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  • Google released a new experimental tool this week called Sodar that lets users visualize social distancing guidelines by placing a 2-meter radius augmented reality ring around themselves.
  • In order to use Sodar, you will need to visit a website on Chrome from an Android device.
  • Once you’ve agreed to all of the permission prompts, Sodar will ask you to point your device’s camera at the ground and will create an AR ring around you that will follow you wherever you go.

Health experts and governments are hopeful that a safe and effective vaccine for the novel coronavirus will be ready to innoculate the masses in the coming months, but in the meantime, it’s up to all of us to keep ourselves safe as best we can. One of the many ways that we can protect ourselves is by following the social distancing guidelines from the CDC, which include avoiding gathering in groups and staying at least six feet from one another.

Staying away from large gatherings is relatively easy to accomplish, but living in New York City, I can assure you that keeping six feet of distance between myself and anyone else is virtually impossible from the moment I step outside of my apartment. It’s also hard to judge exactly how far six feet really is, which is why I’m so intrigued to try out a brand new tool from Google that uses augmented reality to help you visualize that distance at all times.

Spotted by Android Police earlier today, Sodar is an experimental web application that creates a two-meter (about 6.6 feet) radius AR ring around you that you can see on your phone’s screen using its camera. In order to try it out, all you need to do is visit on an Android device (Sodar isn’t compatible with iOS, at least not yet) and grant the website permission to use your device’s camera and enter AR.

Once you’ve gotten through all the prompts, you will need to “find the ground” by pointing your camera down, at which point Sodar will create the ring around you. You can then start walking around with the page open and you will be able to tell exactly when someone is getting close to coming within two meters of you.

As a general rule, if you’re taking this pandemic seriously and you think someone is too close to you, they probably are. You don’t need a website to tell you that. But if you have an Android device and you think it might be helpful to visualize the distance you need to keep between yourself and others, you might as well give Sodar a try. It’s free, after all, and it gives you an excuse to get out of the house for at least a few minutes.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.