The AR feature in Google Maps that Google first demoed more than a year ago — a heads-up mode called Live View that provides directions from phones’ cameras in real time — will roll out in beta in the coming weeks for compatible iOS and Android devices, the company today announced. Live View was previously only available to users who were enrolled in the Google Maps beta and were level 5 or above in Google’s Local Guides program, and to owners of Pixel 3a, Pixel 3a XL, and older Pixel smartphones.
As before, Live View will require an ARCore- and ARKit-supported smartphone and will only work in countries where Google Street View is available. Google also warns that Live View will slightly increase Maps’ battery and cellular data consumption.
Tapping the Start AR button kicks off Live View navigation, and holding up the phone reveals arrows, indicators, and a live map that guides you to your final destination. Using a technique known as global localization, Maps gets a phone’s coarse location via GPS, and it uses Street View imagery to narrow down the exact location.
“Live View determines the location of a device based on imagery,” explained Google Maps software engineer Tilman Reinhardt in a blog post. “[It] first creates a map by taking a series of images [that] 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, it compares the features in imagery from the phone to those in the index, and it uses machine learning to prioritize “features that are likely to be permanent parts of the scene [while] ignoring things like … dynamic light movement and construction that are likely transient.”
In other Maps-related news, Google today launched a new trip reservations flow that lets you check important flight and hotel info from the Maps app even when you’re offline. (View it by tapping on the Your Places shortcut from Maps’ menu screen and then the Reservations tab.) Reservations are ingested automatically from Gmail and Google Calendar, in addition to other sources within the Google services ecosystem.
Additionally, Timeline — the Maps feature that shows location history and photos in a nifty chronological view, narrowed down by day, month, or year — now allows you to export places you’ve been to in a list format that can be annotated and shared with friends and contacts. New filters for countries and cities are in tow, as well as place categories, such as restaurants, shops, attractions, hotels, and airports.
The new Timeline hits Android devices today, with iOS support promised down the line.