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A fun new Google Maps feature shows walking directions on top of real-world images

Key Points
  • Google Maps has a new AR feature rolling out to iPhones and Android phones this week.
  • It overlays digital directions on top of the real world, making it virtually impossible to get lost.
  • I first tested this in March. Here's how it works.
Google Maps AR directions.
Google

Google on Thursday announced that it's rolling out a beta version of its Google Maps AR directions feature for Android and iPhones.

Google Maps AR, which stands for augmented reality, places digital directions on top of the real world to show you where to walk. If you want to head to the bakery, you stop and look at your phone, which will have big arrows showing you exactly where to go. It can recognize buildings and other points of interest, so it's even harder to get lost than if you're simply looking at a flat map.

This was first tested with a small batch of Google Maps users back in March, when I gave it a try on my iPhone. It worked really well then, and now people with iPhones that support ARKit (iPhone 6s and newer) and ARCore Android phones (most high-end models released in recent years) will see the feature beginning this week.

To try for yourself, just check for a Google Maps update on your iPhone or Android phone. If it supports AR, you should have it by the end of the week.

Here's what my experience was like:

I searched for a local bakery. Then I chose walking directions.

Using the AR feature in Google Maps
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Next, I tapped the new "Start AR" button that's in Google Maps.

Using the AR feature in Google Maps
Todd Haselton | CNBC

I lifted my phone up. It recognized exactly where I was and pointed me in the right direction with huge arrows.

Using the AR feature in Google Maps
Todd Haselton | CNBC

I started walking. Here it shows where the bakery is — right ahead!

Using the AR feature in Google Maps
Todd Haselton | CNBC

I kept walking and decided to go the wrong way on purpose. Google noticed and redirected me.

Using the AR feature in Google Maps
Todd Haselton | CNBC

When I made it, Google told me I had arrived.

Using the AR feature in Google Maps
Todd Haselton | CNBC
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