As lockdown measures are eased around the world, it’s more important than ever to observe proper health protocol in public. That means wearing a mask (if you can), washing your hands regularly, and social distancing. This last step can be the trickiest, but Google has released a handy augmented reality tool that makes things a little easier.
If you’ve got an Android device, just open up the Chrome browser and go to goo.gle/sodar to launch the tool, named SODAR. There’s no app required, though it won’t work on iOS or older Android devices. Your phone will use augmented reality to map the space around you, superimposing a two-meter radius circle on the view from your camera.
In our tests of SODAR using a Samsung Galaxy S20, we would describe its accuracy as “close enough” and “yeah, sure.” It wasn’t always two meters exactly (which is slightly longer than the six feet or 1.8288 meters recommend in the US), but I don’t think the virus is going to notice. An exact number is less important than just giving people space.
Now, will tools like this make a tangible difference in the spread of COVID-19? Probably not. Let’s be honest. Anyone worried enough about social distancing to open up SODAR is likely already aware of the space between themselves and others. While anyone who doesn’t care about social distancing isn’t going to have their mind changed by an app.
Still, it is a neat tool, and I’m sure there will be someone who will find it useful or just reassuring. It’s at least better than some of the official advice from governments on correct social distancing, which includes the UK’s incredibly helpful tip that if you can’t visualize two meters, just imagine the length of three fridges. (No, we’re not joking about that.)