Google Sodar lets you visualize social distancing guidelines in AR

Shubham Agarwal

Social distancing is one of the proven defenses you can deploy to stay safe during the coronavirus pandemic. Google wants to lend a hand to help you stick to the recommended 6-foot (about 2-meter) distance. Its new experimental augmented reality tool, Sodar lets you visualize exactly how far you need to stand from another person.

Google Sodar is a web app that takes advantage of augmented reality to superimpose a 6-foot boundary in front of you. To prevent the spread of the coronavirus, you need to ensure the person you’re talking to is outside of that curve. The social distancing ring also stays put when you move around your phone which means you won’t have to recalibrate it every time you switch directions when, for instance, taking a walk.

Similar to other AR apps, when you launch Sodar, it first takes stock of your surroundings and scans the environment to look for a flat surface where it can project the boundary. The process doesn’t take more than a few seconds and you don’t even need to install an app.

Sodar works through the Google Chrome browser and relies on a technology called WebXR which Google rolled out for Android phones late last year. Therefore, Sodar can’t run on iOS phones or Android phones with an outdated version of Google Chrome yet.

To use Sodar, all you need to do is head over to its website, sodar.withgoogle.com. Tap the Launch button, grant the necessary permissions such as camera access, and you’ll be up and running soon. For adding the app to your home screen if you plan to launch it whenever you go out, you can tap the three-dots menu at the top right corner on Google Chrome and select the Add to Home Screen option.

Sodar is the product of one of Google’s experimental divisions that actively releases apps that are not yet prime for a broader, public release. Earlier this year, it introduced nearly half a dozen digital well-being experiments to help you curb your smartphone addiction. You can browse all of these and more at the Experiments With Google website.