Google Pixel Phones Get AR Maps First

by Ian Hamilton • May 7th, 2019

Google is starting to roll out its augmented reality mapping features to its Pixel phones.

The feature should start going live today across the entire line of Pixel phones. The update uses the phone’s camera to provide directions via arrows in its view of the surrounding world. We’ll be curious to see how broadly and quickly Google is able to support the new feature.

GPS is the global foundation for most mapping services, but there are serious limitations to the technology’s ability to pinpoint location in some places. Google’s new AR maps build on these other technologies and, in a technical blog post from February, the company explained how its “Visual Positioning Service” works to enable more accurate mapping in AR.

The post explains:

VPS determines the location of a device based on imagery rather than GPS signals. VPS first creates a map by taking a series of images which have a known location and analyzing them for key visual features, such as the outline of buildings or bridges, to create a large scale and fast searchable index of those visual features. To localize the device, VPS compares the features in imagery from the phone to those in the VPS index.

The new AR service will even work on the new Pixel 3a announced as a budget-conscious flagship device. The new phones will reportedly not work with the Daydream line of VR headsets, however, which is likely frustrating to some developers or early adopters who invested heavily in Google’s support for the first generation of consumer VR based around phones.

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