What Google Maps? This App Uses Augmented Reality for Next-Gen Navigation

Gaode AR-based navigation 3 photos
Photo: AutoNavi via SCMP
Gaode AR-based navigationGaode AR-based navigation
While Google Maps is currently the navigation app that people use the most when getting behind the wheel, one feature that’s missing right now and which drivers would probably love is support for augmented reality (AR) instructions.
Google Maps does offer something similar for the walking mode aimed at pedestrians, but as far as the driving features are concerned, the app only supports the classic map UI and the satellite mode.

This is what makes Gaode, a navigation app developed by China-based AutoNavi, one of the first apps to provide drivers with AR navigation.

Using the phone’s camera, Gaode can look at the road ahead and provide all kinds of information, including navigation instructions to show which way to go in real time but also to highlight signs and issue warnings if a collision can occur.

The app’s interface looks a little bit similar to Google Maps, and the navigation instructions are basically an overlay added over the image captured in real time by the camera. The right side of the screen is used by the classic map mode.

While this is a great update that could really make navigation a lot easier, there are two essential things that need to be highlighted here.

First of all, it’s the distraction that such a feature could be causing, as drivers could end up looking at the screen for a little longer than they currently do with the classic map mode. While it can recognize pedestrians, lane lines, and traffic lights, this feature might actually need additional improvements to reduce the time drivers must spend looking at the screen, especially because the indicators that are currently used for navigation don’t seem too easy to notice right now.

And then, it’s the smartphone implementation, as AR support requires a camera, which means such a feature would never be offered on CarPlay and Android Auto. Unless software developers find a way to send camera data to your car’s head unit, that is, but in this case, the phone still needs to be placed on the windshield with the camera aimed at the traffic in front of the vehicle.

Gaode says the new feature is currently available on Android only, with an iPhone version also in the works.
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About the author: Bogdan Popa
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Bogdan keeps an eye on how technology is taking over the car world. His long-term goals are buying an 18-wheeler because he needs more space for his kid’s toys, and convincing Google and Apple that Android Auto and CarPlay deserve at least as much attention as their phones.
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