Social Distancing Made Easier with Google Sodar
Social distancing may be the temporary new norm, but you probably can’t mentally calculate whether you’re at the recommended two meters or six feet away from others. Google Sodar is a new tool for compatible Android devices that makes this a little easier. It’s also free and surprisingly easy to use.
What Is Google Sodar
Google Sodar is a new website that integrates with the augmented reality feature on compatible Android devices. For now, it only works with Android, though an iOS version may be on the horizon.
When you open the site, you’re able to use your phone’s camera to show what’s in front of you. Sodar measures a safe distance and virtually shows you exactly how far two meters is and whether anyone’s within your safe space. If you’re used to being told to stay six feet away, two meters is just over six and half feet.
What You’ll Need
You’ll need three things to use Google Sodar:
- Compatible Android device. (The easiest way to check is to visit the Sodar site on your device.)
- Chrome browser for Android
- Google Play Services for AR. (This may already be installed on your device by default, though an update may be required if you don’t actively use it,)
Start by downloading Chrome if you don’t have it. Or, update it if you do already have it. Next, visit sodar.withgoogle.com in your Chrome browser. Remember, the site only works on Chrome for now.
If your phone’s compatible, you’ll see a screen to confirm you’re ready to use AR. After this, you’ll either see a green Launch button or be asked to install ARCore, which is Google Play Services for AR.
If Chrome and ARCore don’t already have access to your device’s camera, you’ll be asked to provide permission. You have to provide permission in order for the site to see the world around you. ARCore needs access because it provides an augmented reality overlay on top of your camera’s footage. If you’re not comfortable with this, you can remove the permissions in “Settings -> Apps.” Choose each app individually and select Permissions. Revoke access to your camera after using Sodar.
When everything’s ready, you’ll be asked to point your camera at the floor. Move your phone slowly around in a circle or side-to-side until you see your screen fill with white dots. This is completely normal, though I admit I thought I might have messed something up at first.
Once you see the dots, raise your phone until your camera is pointed either straight ahead of you or slightly ahead and on the ground. That’s when you’ll see the two-meter curved line appear in front of you. Your safe social distancing area is represented by the white dots. This means you should keep people outside of the white dot area.
Is It Useful?
At first, I didn’t know if this would really be useful until I tried it out. I thought I knew how far to stand without measuring anything. As it turns out, six feet or two meters is a bit more than I originally thought. After all, who goes out to get groceries and keeps both arms stretched out on either side?
While I wouldn’t recommend constantly using Google Sodar everywhere you go, it’s a great tool to learn how to social distance when in public. Practice at home if you have a spouse, roommate, or relative living with you. Once you see the distance measured out, it’s easier to visualize it when you’re out in public. Or, if you’re worried, use Sodar in public a little. Just remember to sanitize your phone when you’re finished.
Currently, there isn’t an app available, though this may be created if demand is high enough. The same holds true for iOS users.