Parts of the U.S. are starting to open up again, but with covid-19 continuing to plague communities throughout the country, it’s still important to maintain proper social distancing where needed when out in public. To help make staying six feet away from others easier to visualise, Google made a simple augmented reality tool called SODAR.
In fact, the tool is so simple you don’t even need an app to use it — you can simply visit the SODAR website here using Chrome (or pull it up using Google’s QR code), and your browser will turn into a standalone tool that uses your phone’s cameras to draw a six foot perimeter around you.
Sodar – use WebXR to help visualise social distancing guidelines in your environment. Using Sodar on supported mobile devices, create an augmented reality two meter radius ring around you. #hacktohelp https://t.co/Bu78QrEN9f pic.twitter.com/kufatNFDQk
— Experiments with Google (@ExpWithGoogle) May 28, 2020
The downside is that while SODAR doesn’t require any special sensors or hardware, the tool is currently only available on Chrome on Android devices. Most Android phones and tablets made within the last couple years are supported, but SODAR doesn’t work on iOS, macOS, or Windows-based gadgets — at least not yet. Also, because SODAR is only meant to be a guideline to help people maintain social distancing, you shouldn’t expect laser-like precision.
I quickly tested SODAR on a Samsung Galaxy Z Flip. After I opened the website on my phone, gave SODAR permission to access my phone’s camera, and then pointed my phone’s camera at the floor to help calibrate the tool, I was shown a simple white AR circle marking the space around me that needed to be reserved for social distancing. The circle automatically adjusts depending on where you point your phone.
Thankfully, SODAR’s two-metre boundary is actually slightly larger than the six feet of distance recommended by the CDC by about a half foot, so even if the tool comes up a little short, it’s not a big deal.
Sadly, with the number of deaths from covid-19 in the U.S. having recently surpassed 100,000, even a simple tool to help people maintain social distancing is a welcome addition.