Google Maps To Use Augmented-Reality To Help In Urban Wayfinding

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Wayfinding is one of space design’s primary concern. The ability of space to lead pedestrians to the right place and not get lost like in a maze is one characteristic of good space design. However, as the science of urban planning is relatively new, many cities have walkways that are hard to follow. Furthermore, the ability of people to read and understand maps are declining – not only because this is not taught in schools but also because of our reliance on technology.

On Monday, Google Maps, the leading online map system in the world and a brand from Google, announced that they want to make it easier for people to find their way in busy urban spaces by using large cartoon arrows to show someone’s desired destination.

Google Maps has begun letting some of its users test its beta function that employs an augmented-reality feature in its mobile app. The new feature uses graphics such as highlighted arrows and floating street names over live view using their smartphone camera. The feature aims to help tourists and locals navigate through a busy street without the fear of getting lost.

The company’s Rachel Inman, who works on user-experience for the new feature, said they aim to bridge the gap between the two-dimensional map that people can see on their phone and the three-dimensional world that they are moving around in.

“We’ve all had the experience of coming up from the subway and walking a half block or a full block in the wrong direction and being really annoyed when we have to turn around and walk the way we were supposed to go in the first place,” she told CNN Business at a real-life demonstration of the feature in San Francisco on Monday.

Although many companies, including Google, have been working on augmented-reality, few have had luck with consumers. One reason for this is the complexity of the technology and the challenge of meshing virtual images with real objects.

During a demonstration with CNN Business, google map has shown how the app works. Using a demo smartphone, they used the app to navigate from a park on San Francisco’s waterfront to a coffee shop about half a mile away. The app has shown street names as they pass by them and arrows to guide them whenever they needed to turn. In the end, as they reached their destination, a red Google Map pin popped out signaling that they are where they intend to be.

Since the new feature is in the early stages of user testing, there are glitches that Google needs to fix. For instance, some of the virtual images stopped working several times.

Google said that the new feature will be available to a small group of beta testers and has not yet announced when it will be available to everyone.

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