Google Maps' New AR Feature Is So Awesome We Want It Now

MOUNTAIN VIEW — Google is going to make fumbling for directions a thing of the past. And it's turning to the camera on your phone to help guide your way.

In a demo at Google's I/O developer conference today (May 8), Google executives show how a phone's camera can use AR features to augment directions. Hold up your phone, and directional arrows appear over the real-world view, showing you which way to turn. Street names are superimposed on the screen, too.

AR-powered directions would be a definite improvement over the current implementation of directions. Right now, you've got a blue dot on a map, but you're on your own when it comes to orienting yourself on which direction to start walking. If you're anything like me, you'll punch in a direction on Maps and start walking, only to see the blue dot on your phone's screen is moving in the wrong direction.

MORE: Google I/O 2018: All the Big News

Google outlined other features that could find their way into AR-powered directions. Virtual cards listing information about businesses and restaurants along your route could pop into view, helping you find places to eat along the way.

A less helpful feature is a virtual assistant that Google's Maps team is experimenting with. In the I/O demo, it was a cartoon fox bounding in front of you to show you the right direction, but honestly, this seems like a potential reincarnation of Clippy, the much loathed assistant that's thankfully been purged from Microsoft's Office apps.

Given the amount of visual detail in this reimagined directions feature, it seems like this is being geared toward helping you walk from Point A to Point B. Adding these kind of visual cues to turn-by-turn directions for drivers would boost instances of distracted driving.

One other bummer about these enhanced turn-by-turn directions: Google didn't say when the new feature will find its way to Maps.

Other Maps features showcased at I/O will be coming to the iOS and Android versions of Maps later this summer. These include a For You tab, that will tell you about things like new business and trending restaurants in your neighborhood. A new Match Score feature combines the info Google's collected about business along with your ratings of similar businesses to produce more targeted recommendations.

A shortlist feature aims to make it easier to select places to eat or hang out and have your friends vote on their choice, which will hopefully eliminate a lot of the back-and-forth currently going on in your messaging app.

See our list of the best Google Maps features for more on how to make the best of the navigational app.

Image Credits: Google

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.