Apple granted a patent for augmented reality-enhanced maps and navigation on iPhone

Apple patent augmented reality maps drawing 002

We know from Tim Cook’s remarks that Apple dabbled in virtual reality systems before deciding that augmented reality is the way to go. As opposed to virtual reality which completely immersed you in computer-generated environments, augmented reality overlays computer imagery on live video feed of the real world, enhancing or augmenting the images of your real-life surroundings.

Apple’s latest patent award for augmented reality maps that surfaced today in the database of the United States Patent & Trademark Office underscores the company’s commitment to augmented reality technologies.

Apple’s patent, titled “Augmented reality maps”, describes a next-generation Maps application that taps into the iPhone’s advanced sensor array and use that data to render enhanced views of the surrounding environments in augmented reality.

You would simply point your iPhone in any direction and the app would capture real-time video feed and overlay useful information on it. What kind of useful information?

Things like street/building/venue/business names, points of interest and more. Apple even envisions advanced GPS-based navigation in augmented reality mode.

Some embodiments call for interactive route guidance complete with onscreen path indicators overlaid onto the live vide feed. Augmented reality maps could even warn users that they’re heading down a one-way street.

Apple patent augmented reality maps drawing 003
Depending on device orientation, Apple’s system can switch from augmented reality-enhanced live video to a bird’s-eye view.

As mentioned above, Maps would know what information pertains to which onscreen object like a building or a business based on location data and information from the iPhone’s sensors, including gyroscope, digital compass and accelerometer.

The augmented reality view would update in real time as you move the handset around.

Here’s a brief explanation from the patent abstract:

The user sends a search request to a server for nearby points of interest. The handheld communication device receives search results based on the search request, geographic position, camera direction, and tilt of the handheld communication device.

The handheld communication device visually augments the captured video stream with data related to each point of interest. The user then selects a point of interest to visit. The handheld communication device visually augments the captured video stream with a directional map to a selected point of interest in response to the user input.

Apple’s invention credits engineer Jaron Waldman as its inventor.

As AppleInsider notes, today’s patent award comes five years to the day since Apple first applied for the patent grant in 2011. Apple first filed a patent application related to augmented reality-enhanced Maps back in February 2010.

During an earnings call back in the summer, Cook said that Apple was “high” on augmented reality for the long run.

“I think augmented reality can be huge,” he said.

Apple patent augmented reality maps drawing 001

“Virtual reality, I think, has some interesting applications, but I don’t think it’s a broad-based technology like augmented reality,” said Cook in a recent chat with BuzzFeed.

“Augmented reality will take some time to get right, but I do think that it’s profound. We might have a more productive conversation, if both of us have an augmented reality experience standing here, right? And so I think that things like these are better when they’re incorporated without becoming a barrier to our talking,” said Cook.

Source: USPTO via AppleInsider