Gone will be the days of staring at the little blue dot on the map while trying to navigate, thanks to Google’s new augmented reality innovation.

The augmented reality (AR) feature announced for Google Maps will ease the task for someone trying to find their way in an unfamiliar place – a struggle we’ve all faced. As the user looks at their surroundings through their phone camera, the directions appear on screen in real-time.

The AR feature was one of a few showcased at Google’s I/O developers conference for 2018. While we’re not sure when the feature will roll out, Google did also suggest that just for fun they were working on “adding a helpful guide” to show the way, with a fox shown as an example. We’re unsure at this point whether it would be customisable.

A familiar situation for many is being lost in a shopping centre, trying to find the directory because there’s a specific shop you want to go to. Imagine how convenient the AR Google Maps technology would be in an app for shopping centres instead. Or – an even more common shopping centre situation – losing your car in the carpark. We’ve all dreamt of easier ways to find our cars, marking the spot when you park and then being guided all the way way back to it. This would undoubtedly save a lot of time and stress.

Augmented Reality Google Maps Application
Capabilities of Google Maps augmented reality technology. Source: Google; The Sun

More AR from the I/O conference

Google also announced updates to ARCore, their augmented reality platform. ARCore 1.2 allows users to play multiplayer AR games such as tic-tac-toe, and could essentially recreate any other game of its sort – Jenga, Connect Four, you name it. This uses ‘cloud anchors’ which essentially anchor the location of the virtual object in the 3D space and sends it to the cloud, then to the devices. Without cloud anchors, AR objects in a certain location are fully reliant on the phone’s GPS signal, which means if the satellite thinks your position is moving, the AR objects don’t stay in place. This is the solution to AR objects not sticking to one spot.

The final and arguably the most interesting ARCore feature announced is Augmented Images, which can essentially give you an augmented experience wherever you go, bringing static images to life. This feature lets a user create AR apps that are responsive to 2D images in their environment.

According to Google, the user provides “a set of reference images, and ARCore tracking tells you where those images are physically located in an AR session, once they are detected in the camera view.”

The developers provide a list of criteria to check if an app is suitable for Augmented Images.

Business applications with augmented reality

The added AR element provides unique ways for companies and marketers to draw someone to their product. A few examples were given of Augmented Images were given; a toy from a box can come to life,  you could hold your phone up to a movie poster and have the trailer play or screening times appear. A book could come to life before your eyes.

With the overwhelming and abundant number of toys to choose from, this could be the perfect way to help a child (with parental guidance) make what feels like the biggest and hardest decision ever, by engaging them in a unique way. Children are often drawn to toys with fancy packaging, or they remember the ads they’ve seen on TV. Maybe augmented examples of what can be made out of Play-Doh will inspire the imagination of some, while dolls dance their way out of their boxes. Augmented book characters and scenarios would also be a great way to market a book, enticing readers through the visual appeal, similar to Google’s Castle Toy example, rather than the go-to skim of the blurb on the back, which is sometimes too vague to really draw someone in.

AR is providing the tools to keep consumers engaged in a unique way in an age where our devices are rarely anywhere but our hands or pockets. The AR Maps feature and ARCore updates are opening doors for users of all ages and abilities, from children engaging with toys to frazzled adults who need AR to literally lead the way.

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