Google appears to be one step closer to unveiling its long-promised Maps AR navigation feature. First teased at the company’s developer conference back in May 2018, AR navigation will make use of your phone’s camera to provide more accurate location data and more precise directions than currently on offer.
The Wall Street Journal had an advanced look at the upcoming feature and explained how the beta version works.
According to the publication, AR navigation is launched by pressing Start AR in the Google Maps app. This opens up a real-time view of the world around you. Google then compares the data coming from your smartphone’s camera to existing Street View data—providing an exact location.
Directions—in the form of giant arrows—are superimposed over the Street View to help you navigate to your destination.
What will AR maps be used for?
The feature will be used to make directions clearer. However, it appears that Google doesn’t want AR navigation to be the primary method you use to find your way around.
The Wall Street Journal pointed out that, in the beta version they tested, when a user lowers the phone the interface automatically adjusts back to the regular map view. Likewise, it noted that if you hold the phone up for too long, Google requests you lower the map; if you refuse to do so, it will eventually darken the screen.
It seems like Google instead wants you to save AR navigation for only the trickiest parts in a trip. For example, when you set off and are still getting your bearings, or when you approach a busy junction and want to be sure you make the correct turn.
While this may seem like it will limit the feature’s usefulness, it makes a lot of sense. As well as being a significant drain on your device’s battery, continually holding your phone in front of your face could be a major distraction while walking. The company also likely wants to ensure people don’t use the feature while driving.
When will Google Maps AR navigation get a full release?
According to the Wall Street Journal, Google will roll the feature out to a select few beta testers soon. The company will then continue to refine the user experience until they are happy with it.
Unfortunately, there is no mention as to how long this might take.