Augmented Reality-Based Indoor Navigation Works

Augmented The proliferation of AR-based indoor navigation applications in different consumer sectors is estimated to experience tremendous growth in the coming years as technologies continue to evolve. As users increasingly become more digital-savvy and ready to apply new technologies in their everyday life.

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  • Introducing Augmented Reality Indoor Navigation
  • Available technologies for indoor user positioning
  • How to develop an AR-based indoor navigation app
  • The Future of AR indoor navigation
  • Final thoughts on AR indoor navigation adoption

There are many like Alex, a senior manager at a tech company. He was looking for an Apple Store, so he went to the Westfield Valley Fair, a midsize mall in the Silicon Valley. Which is easy to find via Google maps even if you’re not local. It took him 5 minutes to buy a new iPhone. But before that, he spent like 20 minutes walking around to find the store inside the mall. Despite using public maps placed on some type of citylights around the mall, it still could be a challenging task. As facilities are growing, the way people navigate is the same as decades ago.

As Alex shared the story, I was already digging into the indoor navigation topic. And, obviously, thought of beacons to save the World. After a year and a bunch of experiments, I don’t think that way anymore.

We believe there is a clear road map to success in the world of Augmented Reality technology especially when you consider that organizations are now moving from standard solutions such as face masks and AR games, and instead are going for custom solutions (think AR Indoor Navigation applications).

However, to achieve that success, business owners, project managers, CTOs, and CIOs must first gain a 360-degree view of this nascent technology and how it can seamlessly suit their particular needs.

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INTRODUCING AUGMENTED REALITY INDOOR NAVIGATION

Indoor navigation is quite different in terms of complexity compared to outdoor navigation. With outdoor navigation, millions of people currently use the technology as it doesn’t require much performance; modern smartphones and even smartwatches have built-in GPS and maps.

AR indoor navigation technology, on the other hand, is quite complex as it consists of 3 modules that have to be factored in; and these include Positioning, Mapping, and Rendering.

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Currently, Mapping is the only module that is straightforward. With a map and coordinates, it’s easy to make a route. This module is easy to upgrade and customize based on a given business use case/need.

Rendering module manages the design of AR content and its work directly depends on the precision of positioning. We can easily draw a route in 3D but face some challenges while matching the virtual objects with the real world. The quality and precision of rendering will grow along with the evolution of the ARKit.

But when it comes to Positioning, the situation becomes a little bit daunting. There’s no accurate way of determining the precise location of users indoors, including the exact floor. Determining the proper accuracy levels is also a challenge. For example, is 10 meters enough? What about 5 meters? Or 1 meter?

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AVAILABLE TECHNOLOGIES FOR INDOOR USER POSITIONING

Even though there exist a number of technologies for user positioning, most of them have a few disadvantages. Here’s a look at some of them.

GPS FOR INDOOR NAVIGATION

GPS is one of the existing technologies in the navigation space; however, it cannot provide accurate positioning inside a building. It’s relatively accurate in large and low-rise buildings, such as airports; but it can’t determine finer details such as the floor number, and the only way to achieve this is to do it manually, like the way it’s done with Apple & Google Maps. The takeaway here is GPS works but it’s not a viable solution.

VISUAL POSITIONING SYSTEM (VPS)

Visual Positioning System (VPS) – is advanced compared to the two and holds so much promise. Google, for example, uses Street View data to clarify a user’s position in AR-based Outdoor Navigation, using surrounding buildings as reference points.

Furthermore, ARKit 2 introduced the ARWorldMap class, which can also serve a similar purpose. The ARWorldMap is essentially a set of feature points around a user, like “the world’s fingerprint”, which can be recognized.

However, we can’t entirely rely only on ARWorldMap to determine the exact location for indoor navigation because:

  • Offices often look the same in different places, that is, rooms and corridors can be identical on different floors. Hence, it’s not always possible to determine the location visually.
  • Interiors may change, which might confuse the ARWorldMap.

Complex calculations can make this solution slow.

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HOW TO DEVELOP AN AR-BASED INDOOR NAVIGATION APP

Are you planning to deploy an AR-based indoor navigation application for your company? If your answer is yes, well that’s a good strategy. However, you need to first understand how to choose the right software company/team, how the development process looks like, what are the timelines, among other factors.

To start this process, ensure the augmented reality company you choose has the following team members: iOS/Android developers with ARKit/ARCore experience, UI/UX designers, a project manager and a QA engineer. Let’s take a closer look at each stage.

The pre-contract stage is where the software company gets to clarify the project requirements and Client’s business’ needs, brainstorm on efficient options, and thereafter, comes up with a technical strategy.

Business analysts and project managers work with product owners and stakeholders to create a consistent overall vision of the AR app, considering all the constraints of the project (think deadlines, budget, technology, corporate environment). Technical analysts provide an overview of the available development tools to narrow down the technology stack.

The Design stage consists of usual sketching, wireframing, mock-ups creation, 3D objects creation plus mapping. We’ll discuss mapping in detail shortly.

The Development stage involves creating a PoC (Proof of Concept) to test the idea and the result in minimum time; and if needed, a mocked (hard-coded) route and custom features (think voice recognition) are also created. For AR app development, it will mean go with Apple’s ARKit or Google’s ARCore software development kits depending on the project requirements. Based on our experience, ARKit may give more accurate results and has more features.