Google Maps doesn't want you walking around in AR

CNET | 5/11/2019 | Scott Stein
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The augmented reality fox is gone from Google Maps. There's a reason for that.

Google's AR-enabled Maps app was first teased at last year's I/O, introducing a fox that helped you find your way when you held up your phone to look at the world. Google Maps' AR walking navigation feature is now available to anyone with a Pixel phone, but the fox is gone. The reason is related to the ways Google is looking to make AR helpful in Search or Lens.

Google - I/O - Developer - Conference - Team

At Google's I/O developer conference, the team behind the AR experience in Maps explained what happened to that fox and laid down guidelines on how to create practical AR. The conversation was fascinating, and illustrated a few key things: Google's ideas on functional AR are changing, and upcoming Google AR experiences might also appear in Maps.

How AR walking navigation in Maps looks now.

Google - Lot - Design - Prototypes - Maps

It turns out that Google made a lot of design prototypes for how Maps AR would work, and many failed. The delightful fox-as-guide that appeared at last year's I/O conference and brought a Hiyao Miyazaki presence to Maps isn't there for now. Google's UX designer for the AR Maps experience, Rachel Inman, explained that people expected the fox to be smarter, to lead them to interesting things. The fox was enchanting but distracting.

The fox may come back someday, but clearly Maps' mission was to become more helpful rather than ultra-immersive. Even seemingly basic ideas ended up being too compelling. An original navigational design for the AR map directions painted a blue line on the ground, tracing the directions as you walk, but apparently "people felt compelled to walk right on the blue line."

Google - Search - AR - Google - Lens

Watch this: Google Search gets AR, and Google Lens wants to be your...

This seems to have led to Google laying down new design principles for...
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