Google Maps could give the company’s AR plans a boost

Before Google had its own pair of augmented reality glasses one day it will take AR to work everywhere. Worldwide AR that covers the real world using map data has been a goal for several companies lately, and Google is layering its AR using Google Maps.

The toolbox, announced at Google I/O Developer Conference Wednesday, could outpace several competing efforts from rivals such as Niantic, Snap and Apple by using swaths of existing Google Maps data to generate location-specific AR anchors. To do this, Google uses the same technique it used to create AR layers on top of Google Maps, called Live viewwhich were introduced in 2019.


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The new ARCore geospatial API, as it’s known to developers, could quickly make it possible to place specific augmented reality information in specific places around the world, so that many people can see it at once and interact with it. It will work in more than 87 countries, according to Google, without requiring location scanning.

Google is evolving its own maps to become more augmented reality-infused over time, including adding a Immersive view in certain places that will create ever more detailed scans of interior and exterior spaces. But these new moves also seem to allow app developers to create these experiences, drawing on map data, for themselves.

Pocket Garden, a collaborative location-based AR application created by Google.

Google

Microsoft, Apple and Meta, among others, are already working to combine AR with map data, but not all initiatives are the same. Some recent initiatives of Instantaneous, Apple and Meta used lidar or depth-scan cameras to map locations, which also requires regions to have been pre-scanned to work. Other location-mapping tools, such as Niantic’s Global Scanning AR in its Lightship platform, no lidar needed. Still, Google’s existing maps seem like a huge starting set of mapped locations that could work very quickly with location-specific AR.

According to Google, AR effects can appear in any location where Google Street View is also available, which could give it a huge advantage in working quickly in many locations.

Google has already started working with early app partners, including the NBA, Snap and Lyft, to use phone-based AR technology. This seems like a clear stepping stone to the tools a future set of AR glasses would also need. According to Google, Lime is using this feature to explore how to display available parking spaces using augmented reality in certain cities.

A few open-source demo apps were also announced, which showcase location-specific collaborative AR: a balloon app that could be used by many people at once in various locations, and a multi-person interactive gardening game that reminiscent of a collaborative AR demo we tried out at Google I/O years ago.