Watch Google’s ‘Visual Positioning Service’ AR Tracking in Action


At today’s annual Google I/O developer conference, Clay Bavor, VP of Virtual Reality at Google, announced a new augmented reality service called Visual Positioning Service, the latest development for the Tango platform that promises to not only precisely map the world around you in concert with Google Maps, but also give you a ‘GPS-like’ turn-by-turn navigational experience when you’re indoors. In addition, he announced an AR mode for an upcoming educational tool called Google Expeditions.

Following some major VR announcements including Daydream-compatible standalone VR headsets in the works from HTC and Lenovo, Bavor moved on to Google’s AR operations, confirming that the Asus Zenfone AR, the second Tango-enabled consumer smartphone, is still on track for a summer 2017 launch.

Google Tango is a smartphone-based AR platform that has the ability to map the world around you in real-time using a number of on-board sensors and the phone’s camera.

image courtesy Google

The Visual Positioning Service (VPS) revealed on stage, which combines Tango’s inside-out tracking system with Google Maps, provides “very precise location information indoors,” claims Bavor. As an example, Bavor described looking for a specific screwdriver at a Lowe’s home improvement store. Holding up a VPS-enabled phone inside the store will allow the system to know exactly where you are “within a few centimetres”, and will be able to direct you (based on previous collected data) to the exact tool you were searching for, sort of like an in-door GPS complete with turn-by-turn directions.

Google says VPS works today in partner museums and select Lowe’s stores.

image courtesy Google

In other words, “GPS can get you to the door, VPS can get you the exact item”. In the future, VPS combined with an audio interface could transform the way visually-impaired people move around the world. It will also be “one of the core capabilities of Google Lens”—a new image recognition initiative also announced today.

Two Classic VR Games From Google's VR Studio Coming Soon to Vision Pro

Finally, Bavor announced AR is being added to Google Expeditions, the popular ‘virtual field trip’ tool for education. Introduced two years ago for the inexpensive Cardboard VR headset, Expeditions has since been used by 2 million students. The new AR mode, demonstrated on video in a classroom with students holding several Zenfone ARs on selfie sticks, was described as “the ultimate show and tell.” The Expeditions AR mode will be added later this year.

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The trial version of Microsoft’s Monster Truck Madness probably had something to do with it. And certainly the original Super Mario Kart and Gran Turismo. A car nut from an early age, Dominic was always drawn to racing games above all other genres. Now a seasoned driving simulation enthusiast, and former editor of Sim Racer magazine, Dominic has followed virtual reality developments with keen interest, as cockpit-based simulation is a perfect match for the technology. Conditions could hardly be more ideal, a scientist once said. Writing about simulators lead him to Road to VR, whose broad coverage of the industry revealed the bigger picture and limitless potential of the medium. Passionate about technology and a lifelong PC gamer, Dominic suffers from the ‘tweak for days’ PC gaming condition, where he plays the same section over and over at every possible combination of visual settings to find the right balance between fidelity and performance. Based within The Fens of Lincolnshire (it’s very flat), Dominic can sometimes be found marvelling at the real world’s ‘draw distance’, wishing virtual technologies would catch up.
  • DaKangaroo

    So in order for this to work, owners of public buildings would just need to provide Google extensive photo collections to Google for them to use to create a 3D reconstruction more or less.

    That’s one way to mine more data..

    • beestee

      Same sensors used to author VPS data and read VPS data. Dataset will evolve as more users pass through the space equipped with VPS capable devices.

  • Hadar

    Take heed Ikea! Your days of making us go in circles are numbered!

    • Javier Martinez

      I feel like cattle when navigating their stores

  • Amazing

  • Lucidfeuer

    So Vslam, 4 years after 13th Lab did it and was bought by Oculus? Too little too late.

    • Caven

      One could have said the same thing about internet search engines when Google decided to create one of their own. Now Google practically owns internet searching. One could even say something similar about digital imagery of the Earth.

      All Google has to do is create the compelling consumer-use case that 13th Lab so far hasn’t, and suddenly it’s a big deal.

      • Lucidfeuer

        It’s true what you say, but for VR we’re in a state of early entropy which makes it so that anyone can push Google of the cliff with a swing so much this technology, it’s platforms and usages isn’t even close to take off.

        Nothing is settled, quite the contrary if no company is capable of doing their job in the coming years…