Google unveils new AR tool to help users maintain social distance

Sodar warns users when they are within a potentially hazardous radius

01 June 2020 - 11:00 By AFP Relaxnews
A new tool allows users maintain social distancing.
A new tool allows users maintain social distancing.
Image: 123RF/ymgerman

Smartphone users have a new way to keep their distance — a tool that lets them know when people are getting closer than pandemic guidelines recommend.

The Google-developed Sodar tool, available this week, taps into Android smartphone cameras to put users in the centre of a white circle with a radius of about two metres.

The perimeter, determined based on pandemic social distancing guidelines, is made using the same kind of augmented reality technology in smartphone games such as Pokemon Go.

Circles superimposed on surroundings move with users, keeping smartphones in the centre. Users get a visual warning when they are within the potentially hazardous radius.

Sodar works through Google-made Chrome browsers on Android smartphones that support augmented reality, according to the California-based internet firm.

"This experiment uses (the application program interface) WebXR to visualise 2-metre social-distancing guidelines in your environment," a message at the website said.

The tool came out of an "Experiments With Google" project on technology hacks to help people cope with the coronavirus pandemic.