Hello folks! Do you guys remember, at last year’s I/O developer’s conference, Google showed off a new augmented reality feature for Google Maps? Well, its finally rolling out to a handful of users! Yes, I’m talking about the feature that would provide people with directions from your phone’s camera in realtime! I was really hoping that this wouldn’t end up like Google Glass! *Yeah, I still remember Google Glass!*

Anyways, the company told the Wall Street Journal the walking-focused feature will be available shortly, but only to Local Guides (community reviewers) at first. The feature will need “more testing” before it’s available to everyone else, Google said. Still, this suggests AR route-finding is much closer to becoming a practical reality.

How does it work?

The core functionality remains the same. Google Maps uses GPS to get a basic idea of where you are, and then relies on the camera to get a much more exact location with 3D arrows hovering over the places you need to turn.

Notably, though, Google doesn’t want you to rely too heavily on AR to get around. Hold the phone up in AR mode for too long and it’ll not only bug you to lower the device, but will ultimately darken the screen to force a change. Way to go Google! This is both for safety’s sake *probably because they would rather not have people bump into each other* as well as to conserve battery power and data.

When will it roll out completely?

Google has reportedly been experimenting with the user interface, finding that users will follow a line on the ground too closely, and that an animated guide will keep them glued to the screen. I’m sorry folks, but Google isn’t exactly saying when the feature will roll out to users, just that it’ll be available to “a few Local Guides” soon, and “will come to everyone only when Google is satisfied that it’s ready.

So is it a gamechanger?

Well, not really. At least, for now. The AR technology won’t really take over from conventional navigation, definitely not without Glass-style wearables. However, it should help in those situations when you’re dealing with a complex intersection or otherwise don’t have your exact bearings. It could also come to your rescue in moments where the GPS is less than accurate, particularly in major cities where tall buildings could mess with satellite signals.

Let’s hope Google rolls it out to everyone! I’m pretty excited for this feature!

So folks, what are your thoughts on this? Let me know what you guys think! Follow me on Twitter here.

Peace.