Published on May 13th, 2019 | by Emergent Enterprise0
Google Maps Doesn’t Want You Walking Around in AR
Creative or whimsical ideas in an interface are fine until someone falls down some subway stairs or gets hit by a car. Scott Stein at cnet.com talks about some of the UX choices Google has made after observing user behavior with their augmented reality version of Google Maps. This reflects the importance of prototyping and design sprints to see what works and what doesn’t all under a controlled environment.
Photo Source: Google
Goodbye, Mr Fox. Google’s dropping the whimsy from its AR Maps.
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.
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.
The fox was too magical
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.”