Alongside its official unveiling of the lower-cost Pixel 3a smartphone at Google I/O, Google took the opportunity to extend its early preview of AR walking navigation in Google Maps to all Pixel devices.
After introducing the capability at last year’s Google I/O Google began rolling out the alpha preview of the AR mode to its Local Guides in February.
In Google Maps, AR navigation overlays arrows, street names, distances, and location pins onto the device’s camera view. The mode is accessed through the navigation screen when walking is the selected mode of transportation.
“This helps you know precisely where you are, and exactly which way to start walking (in areas covered on Street View where there’s a good data connection and good lighting),” said Mario Queiroz, general manager and vice president of Pixel, in a blog post.
When initialized via the AR button, the camera scans for nearby landmarks. It uses computer vision to compare the identified environment with the vast Street View library of Google Maps.
In our hands-on with Google Maps AR navigation, we found that the feature oriented the device to its surroundings swiftly and then got out of the way, urging users to hold the device down while walking. Ultimately, the feature serves as a preview of what life will look like when smartglasses are ready for prime time.
Pixel has become the exclusive first home of many of Google’s new technology, such as Google Lens and Google Assistant, so the rollout of AR navigation to the Google-branded Android devices isn’t a surprise.
Additionally, the next phase of the staged rollout signals that early results are favorable enough to expand the feature’s user base, so a larger rollout is that much closer. With Google adding an AR navigation feature for points of interest to the Google I/O app, more robust features are apparently not far behind.
Behind Search, Google Maps is one of Google’s most prominent products, so the addition of AR serves as another pillar in its quest to introduce AR to the mainstream.