Social distancing simplified with Google Sodar

Social distance may be the new temporary norm, but you probably can’t mentally calculate if you’re two meters or six feet from others recommended. Google Sodar is a new tool for compatible Android devices that makes it a little easier. It is also free and surprisingly easy to use.

What is Google Sodar

Google Sodar is a new website that integrates with augmented reality functionality on compatible Android devices. For now, it only works with Android, although an iOS version is on the horizon.

Social distancing simplified with the launch of Google Sodar

When you open the site, you can use your phone’s camera to view what’s in front of you. Sodar measures a safety distance and virtually shows you exactly how far two meters are and if someone is in your safety space. If you’re used to being told to stay six feet apart, two meters is just over six and a half feet.

What you will need

You will need three things to use Google Sodar:

  1. Compatible Android device. (The easiest way to check is to visit the Sodar site on your device.)
  2. Chrome browser for Android
  3. Google Play services for AR. (This can already be installed on your device by default, although an update may be required if you are not actively using it,)

Start by downloading Chrome if you don’t have it. Or, update it if you already have it. Then visit sodar.withgoogle.com in your Chrome browser. Remember that the site only works on Chrome at the moment.

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Using Sodar

If your phone is compatible, a screen will appear to confirm that you are ready to use AR. After that, you will either see a green launch button or you will be asked to install ARCore, which is Google Play Services for AR.

Social distancing facilitated by the installation of Google SodarSocial distancing facilitated by the installation of Google Sodar
Social distance simplified with Google Sodar Ar CoreSocial distance simplified with Google Sodar Ar Core

If Chrome and ARCore do not yet have access to your device’s camera, you will need to provide authorization. You must provide permission for the site to see the world around you. ARCore needs access because it offers an augmented reality overlay on top of your camera images. If that doesn’t suit you, you can remove the permissions in “Settings -> Applications”. Choose each application individually and select Permissions. Revoke access to your camera after using Sodar.

When everything is ready, you will be asked to point your camera towards the ground. Slowly move your phone in a circle or side by side until your screen fills with white dots. This is completely normal, although I admit that I thought I may have messed up at first.

Social distance simplified with Google Sodar Move PhoneSocial distance simplified with Google Sodar Move Phone

Once you see the dots, raise your phone until your camera is pointing straight ahead or slightly ahead and on the floor. It is then that you will see the curved line of two meters appear in front of you. Your social security distance zone is represented by white dots. This means that you have to keep people outside the white point area.

Social distancing simplified through the use of Google SodarSocial distancing simplified through the use of Google Sodar

Is it useful?

At first, I didn’t know if it would be really useful before I tried it. I thought I knew how far to stand without measuring anything. In fact, six feet or two meters is a little more than I originally thought. After all, who goes out to do the grocery shopping and keeps both arms outstretched on each side?

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While I wouldn’t constantly recommend using Google Sodar wherever you go, it’s a great tool for learning how to distance yourself from social media in public. Practice at home if you have a spouse, roommate or relative living with you. Once you see the distance measured, it is easier to visualize it when you are in public. Or, if you’re worried, use Sodar in public a bit. Remember to disinfect your phone when you are done.

Currently, no application is available, although it can be created if the demand is high enough. The same goes for iOS users.

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