oogle has unveiled a new Google Maps feature for users to navigate malls, train stations and airports with the help of augmented reality technology. The new feature, called Indoor Live View, displays graphics like arrows, directions, and icons on your smartphone's screen, laid atop a camera view of the world around the user. 

The app could be used to find stores in a shopping mall or a bathroom in a train station. The new feature is designed to make the app more interactive than Google Maps’ existing indoor maps function and expand so it is similar to the city-street navigation which launched back in 2019.

It is now available for iOS and Android users in specific malls in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Long Island, Seattle, and Newark, New Jersey. Google states that it soon will be available for use at a limited number of airports, malls, and transit stations in Tokyo and Zurich in the coming months.

Google has made many changes to it’s Maps in recent years as it continues to position its popular app as one that goes far beyond offering maps and turn-by-turn directions.

A Google Maps Director of Product, Russell Dicker, stated in an interview on Monday that the augmented reality feature will assist users to find locations indoors, such as train platforms, stores in malls or a baggage claim in an airport. 

Google AR Navigation

Generally, smartphones use the built-in GPS and compass to detect the users location and direction they’re facing in a mapping app. However, in built up cities and inside buildings, these technologies may not be as effective. Now, the Live View relies on artificial intelligence as well as a vast inventory of Street View images. 

Google has explained that the user holds up their phone camera, allowing the app to match details about the landmarks with visuals the app has already captured. Google Maps utilises machine learning to detect which details are likely to be the same and which are best to ignore. The Live View indoor version even takes into account the user's altitude and where objects are within the building. Once the app has identified where the user is located, it can overlay virtual images to help users navigate to their destination.

Another additional feature of Google Maps includes the ability to see the weather or air quality as users plan trips within the app. There are also plans for later in the year for an update which show users the most eco-conscious driving route, by default, if a route that uses less fuel (which will be determined by considering factors such as road incline and traffic density) is estimated to be about as fast as another route. Google said it's working with the US Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory for the feature.

Dicker stated:

"By and large what we're seeing in our work so far is that for around half of routes we're able to find an option that's more eco-friendly with minimal or no time cost tradeoff."
Mar 31, 2021
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