Russell Dicker, a Google Maps director of product, said during a briefing with journalists on Monday that the AR feature will help users find a range of things indoors, such as a baggage claim or a train platform at a transit station, or, in a mall, directions to a store on a certain floor.
Typically, a smartphone uses its built-in GPS and compass to determine your location and what direction you are facing in a mapping app. In crowded cities and inside buildings, however, these technologies may not be as effective (GPS, for example, relies on having a line of sight to pass along radio signals from far-off satellites to your phone).
Instead, Live View relies on artificial intelligence and Google’s massive inventory of Street View images: As the company explained in the past, a user holds up their phone so the app can match details about landmarks with those visuals that the app has already captured. Google Maps uses machine learning to determine which details are likely to be the same and which are best to ignore. Google said the indoor version of Live View also takes into consideration the user’s altitude and where objects are inside a building. Once the app has a good idea of where you are, it can overlay virtual images to help you find your way to your destination.
Other features Google Maps showed off Tuesday that will be available in coming months include the ability to see the weather or air quality as you plan a trip within the app. Later this year, the app will also 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.
“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,” Dicker said.
The company also said it’s conducting a pilot program with Kroger-owned supermarket Fred Meyer to integrate its existing curbside grocery pickup with Google Maps. For instance, the app could continuously update the store about your estimated arrival time and let you check in through the app when you arrive. The pilot will run this summer in some stores in Portland, Oregon.