Ordnance Survey today adds Augmented Reality (AR) to its award-winning OS Maps app, fixing the one big problem with maps on mobiles – the small screen.
Where you can spread out a traditional paper map and identify different features for miles around, a smartphone's small screen limits you to a few miles' view or hampers you with long, error-prone finger scrolls.
Now with AR you just lift your smartphone to have the world around you instantly categorised and labelled, telling you places of interest's name, type, and how far away they are.
Ordnance Survey says the new AR feature (available as an update from later today) lets users 'see beyond the edge of the map'. Having tested the feature in beta we can tell you it feels like having x-ray vision. Over 200,000 landscape features are included, colour-categorised into Hills (of which there are a vast 19,651), Coast & Water (47,826 features listed), Settlements (42,212), Transport (3487) and Woodland (96,874). In practice it bring hills up to 10 miles away into view, encourages you to visit hidden places of interest and lets you identify everything in a 360 degree panorama like a professional guide.
After a modest initial download, AR works without a phone signal, but touch on any label when you have 3G, 4G or Wifi and you'll be taken a GetOutside Local page containing more information.
Digital Product Manager Tim Newman says: "Now with a small mobile screen you have excellent knowledge of your immediate surroundings AND the wider perspective".
Country Walking editor Guy Procter, who's been testing AR, says: "It's brilliantly slick, useful and fun to use".
• The OSmaps app is free to download (iTunes or Play), with access to the firm's peerless 1:25,000 Explorer and 1:50,000 Landranger mapping for the whole country costing £25.99 for 12 months. Alternatively, you can get FREE premium access to OS Maps, including AR, for as long as you have a subscription to Country Walking or Trail.
• Subscribe already? How to get your OS maps premium access.