Apple Patents Augmented Reality Mapping System for iPhone
Apple on Tuesday was granted a patent detailing an augmented reality mapping system that harnesses iPhone hardware to overlay visual enhancements onto live video, lending credence to recent rumors suggesting the company plans to implement an iOS-based AR strategy in the near future.
As published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple's U.S. Patent No. 9,488,488 for "Augmented reality maps" describes a mapping app capable of tapping into iPhone's advanced sensor suite to present users with real-time augmented views of their surrounding environment.
For example, a user might open activate iPhone's rear-facing camera by navigating to an AR feature within the Maps app. The system automatically correlates data from onboard sensors, including gyroscope, digital compass and accelerometer components, with GPS data to pinpoint iPhone's position in space, tilt and alignment.
Certain embodiments offer simple POI identification, for example the name of buildings and monuments, though the system allows for more complex computations. In some examples, Apple's invention generates interactive route guidance complete with onscreen path indicators overlaid onto the live streamed video. The method can also pull data from the cloud to alert users that they are heading down a one-way street, for example.
Depending on device orientation, the system is capable of switching display formats from live video to a bird's-eye view, making transitioning into and out of AR mode a seamless experience.
Today's USPTO award comes five years to the day since Apple first applied for the patent grant in 2011. Apple is known to be working on augmented reality solutions, though exactly what form that product will take is unclear.
As tech industry competitors like Google, Microsoft and Facebook field their own AR/VR systems, pundits believe Apple plans to dip its toe into the AR/VR waters with an iPhone-based solution. Bolstering those claims are a multitude of AR patents, the latest covering device localization technology assigned to Apple from recent acquisition Flyby Media.
While an iPhone AR mapping app is intriguing, integrating the same technology into an in-car heads-up display would prove revolutionary. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo recently hinted that Apple might use AR technology developed for mobile to break into other areas of interest like autonomous driving systems pulled from the ashes of Project Titan.
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