Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Apple Rolls Out New Maps and Look Around Throughout U.K. and Ireland

Apple:

Today, users in the UK and Ireland can experience the new Apple Maps, with faster and more accurate navigation, and comprehensive views of roads, buildings, parks, airports, malls, and more, making it easier and more enjoyable to map out any journey.

[…]

Maps offers interactive street-level imagery with high-resolution, 3D photography and smooth and seamless transitions through major cities with Look Around. Customers from anywhere in the world can navigate through London, Edinburgh, and Dublin, with many more places to come.

As usual, Justin O’Beirne has put together the best comparison between the old cartography and its replacement. There are some dramatic improvements, some subtler ones, and I cannot wait for this to expand to Canada.

Look Around is uniquely interesting. It is the first attempt in a long time at building a true competitor to Google Street View. Microsoft’s Bing Maps has a “street level” view, but it lacks imagery for Calgary, and its last update in Vancouver occurred about eleven years ago. Meanwhile, I’ve seen Apple’s cars roaming around different cities in Alberta for about a year now.

O’Beirne has coverage of Look Around in the U.K. and Ireland. But I would like to draw your attention to a speculative article he wrote about Apple’s patterns with its rollout of Look Around and how it relates to augmented reality:

Apple has shown strong interest in AR since first unveiling ARKit at WWDC 2017. And from a purely technical standpoint, Apple would seem to have everything it needs to add AR navigation to Apple Maps.

So it seems as if Apple is waiting for something… but what?

Similar to how Google’s AR implementation is dependent upon Street View, it’s likely that Apple’s would also only work in areas where Apple already has Look Around. As we saw earlier, Apple has released Look Around for just fourteen areas […] so one possibility is that Apple is holding off on launching AR navigation until additional Look Around areas come online.

One drawback is that the fourteen areas where Look Around is available are almost entirely core city regions. If you live in a smaller city, the suburbs, or a more rural area, you might be waiting a long time for Look Around. I admire Apple’s ambition; I do not think it is helpful for Google to have a monopoly on street-level imagery.