Augmented reality has a ton of potential to impact and significantly enhance technologies ranging from gaming to navigation. And in that latter area, Google appears to have beaten Apple to the punch.
- 3 ways the new laser time-of-flight camera could boost the iPhone
- Why Apple’s New Augmented Reality Platform is a Game Changer
- Augmented Reality, Apple’s Been Tinkering Since 2010
Google Maps recently debuted a new feature called Live View that overlays directional instructions onto a real-world environment using augmented reality. And unlike a similar Apple solution, you can use Google’s AR navigation on your iPhone right now.
The new Google Maps feature, which the company launched last month, is called Live View. And it’s likely already available on your current smartphone.
Here’s what you need to know about it.
What is it?
Essentially, the new AR navigation feature superimposes directions onto a real-world environment.
You hold your phone out in front of you and you’ll see directional arrows and other instructions through the device’s camera. You’ll also see a small “mini map” at the bottom of the screen that shows more traditional navigation.
It’s obviously a feature aimed at on-foot navigation, as it isn’t currently available for car or public transit directions. (Google also clearly states that it’s not intended for use in vehicles.)
But it could be a massive boon for pedestrian travel. When you’re walking through an unfamiliar city on foot, it can be hard to follow app-based navigation instructions.
Figuring out which direction you’re walking isn’t the easiest and looking down at your phone isn’t the safest thing to do.
Keep in mind that you’ll need a device that supports augmented reality. In other words, something compatible with Android’s ARCore and Apple’s ARKit. In the case of the iPhone, that means only users with an iPhone 6s and later will be able to use the new navigation feature.
It’s also worth noting that the feature is still in beta, so Google likely hasn’t ironed all of the kinks out yet.
How to use Google Maps A/R feature on your iPhone
As long as you have a device that supports ARCore or ARKit and your Google Maps app is updated to the latest version, you can use the feature. Here’s how.
- Open the Google Maps app on your iPhone.
- Search for a location or a business.
- Tap the on-foot person icon to switch to walking navigation.
- You should see an icon next to the Start button that says Live View.
- Alternatively, you can tap the Live View icon in the lower-left corner.
At this point, Google Maps seems to require a bit of setup for the Live View feature. You’ll need to point your device’s camera at buildings and signs across the street to find your location.
Google also notes that it helps if you’re in a well-lit area when doing this.
Once Live View gets the gist of where you are, you’ll start seeing directions through your smartphone’s camera. Google suggests that you put your phone away at this point, but leave the app open and the directions up.
This view will update as you move through your environment. Your device will vibrate once you reach the next navigational step or your destination.
Does Apple have anything similar?
As we mentioned earlier, Apple doesn’t have anything similar to Google’s Live View navigation feature. At least, not yet. Part of that is because Apple Maps has historically lagged behind Google Maps in terms of accuracy and feature set.
While Google has had a Street View feature for years, Apple is only adding a similar “Look Around” feature in iOS 13. While Look Around is a similar feature, it’s definitely not for navigation. It’s more of a “digital sightseeing” feature.
With that being said, Apple is likely to be working on some type of first-party AR navigation feature. It’s even worth venturing that AR navigation is a given for a future Apple platform.
Apple has applied for several patents that deal with navigational directions superimposed over a real-world view. One of them focuses on the vehicular applications, but could be used for on-foot or even indoor navigation as well.
Third-party developers have also issued similar apps and testing platforms after Apple debuted ARKit and CoreLocation updates.
So while Apple Maps may not have a baked-in AR navigation feature yet, it’s a safe bet that Apple is working on something in the same vein. And with Apple’s recent emphasis on AR, such a feature could arrive sooner than later.
Mike is a freelance journalist from San Diego, California.
While he primarily covers Apple and consumer technology, he has past experience writing about public safety, local government, and education for a variety of publications.
He’s worn quite a few hats in the journalism field, including writer, editor, and news designer.