• AR

Augmented Reality Map Apps: A New Approach to Navigation

Yura Velichko
26 Jan 2022
5 min
Augmented Reality Map Apps: A New Approach to Navigation

When was the last time you were lost in a parking lot searching for your car? 

Let’s be honest: there are times when our internal compass fails. Luckily, location-based augmented reality apps are becoming commonplace, and for good reason. Navigation apps have become a necessity for tourists, drivers, and other travelers. Yet, these apps are not always easy to read and use, and this is when AR comes in handy. 

So, what are augmented reality map apps, and why are they becoming more popular?

What is location-based augmented reality?

Augmented reality (AR) is not a new thing: you’ve probably come across this tech somewhere between Instagram stories and the Sephora shopping app. Simply put, AR is the technology that adds digital objects into the real world. 

Location-based augmented reality apps are geo-based and position-based AR solutions that can identify your location. For this, apps rely on GPS, digital compasses, motion tracking, or indoor positioning systems (for indoor AR navigation). 

Along with location recognition, navigation AR apps use computer vision to render virtual objects in the scene and make them visually comprehensive. This type of AR app is markerless, which means that an app doesn’t rely on static images (or markers) to display objects. Instead, virtual objects appear on the screen as you move your camera around. 

For example, by looking at buildings and streets through your smartphone camera, you can see pop-up comments with information such as the address, historical facts, route tips, and more. 

Let’s explore the benefits this handy tech can bring.

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    Reasons to use AR navigation solutions

    Mobile AR apps are on the rise. Statista predicts that 2.4 billion people will use mobile AR by 2023. That’s a projected 1100% leap over just eight years from 2015’s 200 million users. Nowadays, AR apps are intuitive and amusing and, perhaps most importantly, useful in our daily lives. 

    Location-based AR apps are no exception. Here are three reasons augmented reality map apps outclass traditional map apps.

    Easier navigation

    At least 43% of the human population occasionally use their hands to help distinguish right from left. Stress, being in a bad mood, or other negative factors can also impair our sense of direction. No wonder reading a map can turn into a daunting task sometimes. Navigating through a map app can become even harder when we drive or travel to a new place. 

    Location-based AR apps are convenient because they guide you while you’re looking at a real scene. As if someone’s walking alongside you and telling you exactly when to turn. Additionally, you receive information about the places coming into sight, including their descriptions, historical facts, and photos or videos of the interior. This is a blessing for tourists and newcomers traveling without a guide. 

    More effective routes

    It’s no secret that navigation apps help find better and shorter routes. Paired with AR, they become even more efficient. Location-based AR apps provide real-time data on traffic jams and nearby accidents, allowing you to change the route in advance and save time. Plus, effective indoor and outdoor navigation can help us find what we need faster, for example, in shopping malls, at airports, on university campuses, and in office buildings. Finally, AR navigation can be literally lifesaving for those en route to hospitals.


    Location-based augmented reality apps allow you to track information from passing vehicles, such as their type, size, and distance from you. These apps can also detect sudden dangerous movements and alert us – often before we notice the threat with our own eyes. What’s more, AR can help a lot during emergencies. Rescue teams often use AR navigation to arrive at the site faster. AR apps will also help users evacuate from a building, make an emergency call, and send GPS data of a location to a rescue team. 

    AR navigation brings many benefits to the table, and multiple fields are already leveraging its potential. 

    Use cases of augmented reality navigation

    Many world-leading companies like Google, Apple, Mercedes, etc., and some governments have adopted AR for their navigation systems at full tilt. Here are the three most common examples of location-based augmented reality apps today.

    Car navigation

    Augmented Reality Map Apps: A New Approach to Navigation - photo 1

    Mercedes-Benz is one of the pioneers in AR-empowered car navigation: its Mercedes 2020 GLE is probably the first car with an AR navigation screen (Augmented Reality MBUX Navigation). Along with turning instructions, a driver can see house numbers and street names popping out as the car approaches them. A camera in the windscreen records the scene and sends it to the media display. 

    Check out this video to see the system in action.

    City navigation

    Augmented Reality Map Apps: A New Approach to Navigation - photo 2

    In 2019, Google Maps rolled out the Live View function that scans and recognizes buildings, trees, and other objects based on the Google Street View data. Whether you’re lost or simply exploring a new area, you can enable the Live View mode to see overlaid instructions through your smartphone camera while walking. The app will automatically detect your location and point you in the right direction. 

    On the downside, you need to hold your phone up in front of your face as you walk, which can be dangerous. To save you from tripping over, Google Maps sends you warnings to put the phone down and can blank out the screen if you ignore them. 

    This year, a similar feature has become available for iOS users in London and six US cities, including Los Angeles and New York. To enable AR walking directions in Apple’s Maps, you need iOS 15 and an iPhone device released after 2018. 

    Augmented Reality Map Apps: A New Approach to Navigation - photo 3

    Indoor navigation

    Augmented reality map apps for indoor navigation have been around since 2016, for example, AR navigation in Dubai Airport. Unlike outdoor location-based AR apps, indoor apps can’t locate people and objects using GPS and images collected by satellites. Instead, they need a special network of devices to be installed inside the building (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi markers). 

    Indoor navigation can be used in universities, hospitals, airports, shopping malls, and underground to assist people with finding specific locations within minutes (no more wandering through parking lots!) 

    Augmented Reality Map Apps: A New Approach to Navigation - photo 4

    Location-based AR is a relatively new technology, but these examples show that it is already pushing navigation and maps to new heights. As the awareness of AR apps is rising among consumers, these apps will become a larger part of our daily lives. 

    Embrace the future with AR navigation

    As the adoption of location-based AR apps rises, they are becoming comprehensive solutions with rich functionality, able to address more user needs and bring them more benefits. They can help people find their way to a certain location, navigate public places, provide additional AR content, identify dangers, and assist emergency teams during accidents. No doubt, we’ll see more use cases of location-based augmented reality projects in the future. 

    If you’re not aboard the AR train yet, we are here to help. Postindustria has over 14 years of hands-on experience in full-cycle development and can build you a comprehensive AR solution for indoor or outdoor navigation. 

    Contact us to discuss your project!

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