Ordnance Survey to launch first augmented reality offering

Written by Sam Trendall on 28 July 2017 in News
News

New addition to mobile app will be shown to members of the public for the first time at next weekend's Countryfile Live show

Last year Ordnance Survey produced a proof-of-concept augmented reality app for the Martian landscape

Ordnance Survey is getting ready to launch its first publicly available augmented reality mapping tool.

An AR offering that will form part of the mapping agency’s paid-for mobile application is currently being developed. A trial version will be shown to the public at the upcoming BBC Countryfile Live show, which takes place at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire from 3 to 6 August.

Using the location tools and cameras on users’ phones, as well as OS’s mapping data, the software will allow users to gain information on the vista in front of them. The technology aims to identify natural and man-made landmarks.


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For example, a user walking in the Pennines could view the landscape in front of them via the tool, and identify nearby hills and, perhaps, additional information such as height and gradient, as well as walking routes. The technology is now in beta stage, and the intricacies of metrics such as weighting – the system by which one landmark or feature is prioritised over another on what is likely to be a small screen – are currently being ironed out.

Ordnance Survey is hoping to garner feedback from potential customers visiting the Countryfile event.

The OS Maps app is available as a free download, while a Premium version can be subscribed to for a cost of £3.99, £14.99, or £23.99, giving full access for a period of one, three, or 12 months, respectively. The augmented reality tool – which has no specified launch date as yet – will only be available to subscribers to OS Maps Premium, who also benefit from services such as night maps, offline access, and additional route-planning tools for National Park areas.  

The AR offering is designed to work on all versions of Apple’s iOS platform, and all iterations of Android from the 4.4 version of the operating system that was released in 2013 – popularly known as KitKat – onwards.

The mapping agency has been investigating the potential of augmented reality technology for a couple of years. In 2016, as a proof-of-concept exercise, Ordnance Survey developed an iOS-based AR application (pictured above) capable of scanning and providing information related to the surface of Mars – for which the agency’s cartographers had recently produced a paper map.

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