Yahoo! Japan just updated their iOS-based Map application to include a new experimental AR mode which superimposes a blue pathway onto the physical world for you to follow to your final destination. The AR function, which is only intended for walking routes currently, is available starting today on Japan-based Apple devices running iOS 11.
As first reported by our friends at Japanese VR publication MoguraVR, Yahoo! Map‘s new AR mode is made possible by Apple’s ARKit, an app development tool that allows developers to build augmented reality apps for mobile devices running iOS 11 or higher. There’s no word if a similar ARCore-powered Android app is in the making yet.
To activate the AR mode, users simply type in their destination as normal, select “walking route” and then tap “AR mode”.
A blue path appears, giving you white arrows to indicate the direction you should travel. Footprints (and also sometimes ‘paw prints’) will follow you as you make your way to your destination. Sign posts showing distance remaining also appear periodically to show you how many meters are left in your journey. Because this is Japan we’re talking about here, at the end of the trip you’ll of course be welcomed by a cute little cartoon character, which in this case is a helmeted puppy names Kensaku, one of Yahoo! Japan’s official mascots.
Yahoo! Japan has put down an additional warning for users looking to opt-in to the AR mode, including a proviso that “walking while looking at the screen of the smartphone is very dangerous.” Just like when playing Pokémon Go, users should keep their eyes open and not always on the smartphone’s screen.
Check out a demo of the updated Yahoo! Map below.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen AR-assisted map applications in action. When Apple’s ARKit was first released last summer, Andrew Hart, a London-based developer, created a similar prototype map application – one of the very first app of its type we’ve seen. While there have been a few others available for download on iOS 11 devices, we especially like the slightly more ridiculous take on AR navigation called HotStepper which popped up late last year, featuring a half-naked man beckoning you to follow him as he dances to your destination.
While larger companies like Apple or Google haven’t added ‘AR Mode’ to their own native map applications yet, Yahoo! Japan’s implementation could serve as a valuable testing grounds to see if people actually use the AR function, or treat it as a fun, but ultimately less-useful novelty.