Navigation and transit app provider Moovit is introducing new augmented reality (AR) smarts to its mobile app, making it easier for users to find stops and stations visually.

While part of Moovit’s business entails licensing its back-end platform to third parties, the company — which claims around 500 million users globally — is best known for its consumer-facing app that combines transport options to show people the easiest way to get around a city.

The concept of AR-powered navigation is not entirely new. Last year, the mighty Google launched Google Maps AR navigation, which serves as a “heads-up mode” and provides visual directions through users’ phone cameras.

In a similar vein, Moovit’s new Way Finder feature helps guide users visually through their device’s camera, but it has been specifically designed with public transport in mind.


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AR for transport

The general problem Moovit is looking to solve is this: A vacationer who is using Moovit to get to a major tourist attraction may get off their bus and have to walk 50 yards to the subway station. But looking at a map may not clarify which side of the road the station entrance is on or even what direction they’re supposed to head.

To activate Way Finder, users have to input a destination and initiate live directions by tapping the navigate button. They then tap the blue Way Finder button and tilt their phone upwards vertically. The Moovit map will switch to a split-screen mode that shows exactly where the person needs to go to catch their next train or bus.

This example highlights one of the key differences between Moovit’s AR navigation and the Google Maps incarnation. Google’s is geared toward walking, while Moovit is aimed at those using public transport and includes relevant data overlaid on the live camera view, including the name and location of the bus stop or station.

Above: NYC: Moovit’s new AR-powered “way finder” feature

Trying to figure out positions and locations on an unfamiliar street is a challenge, and people using typical mapping apps often end up going in the wrong direction or walking on the wrong side of the road, wasting valuable minutes and even missing their connections.

The genesis for Way Finder was a jokey Facebook post from a user several months back: “A feature that I need for Moovit: Cross the street, stupid. This isn’t the right side.” Moovit took this sentiment into one of its biannual hackathons, where it began work on the AR feature.

“Getting around in an unfamiliar place can be quite frustrating and inconvenient,” noted Moovit’s head of growth and marketing officer, Yovav Meydad. “We are so proud that our team took what began as a very creative hackathon project to solve a user’s needs to new heights and really drove Moovit’s evolution to the next level. Way Finder makes getting to any destination a better experience and further helps us in our mission to simplify urban mobility.”

Way Finder is available in beta now inside the Moovit iPhone app, where it must be manually activated through the Labs section in settings. The company told VentureBeat that the feature will also be arriving in the Android version soon.

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