Indoor navigation has plenty of room to improve, even from Apple’s own efforts, and it sounds like the company just made a move to help in that regard.
The use of augmented reality (AR) can help in this case. Simply being able to hold up your phone (or, in the future, through the use of smart glasses) and see a route you’re supposed to take while visiting a mall you’ve never been to before, for instance. And while Apple Maps can help with getting you to where you want to be in certain indoor locations, a line on a map can be improved upon.
You can see a concept of that idea in the image above, what was rumored to be some major improvements coming to navigation and Siri that unfortunately never came to be. But it doesn’t mean it’s still not in the works in some capacity or another. And, indeed, Apple has indoor navigation for malls and airports in place.
Enter Dent Reality, which has just announced today (via AppleInsider) that it has partnered with Apple’s indoor mapping initiative for AR-based resources and indoor maps. Here’s the tweet announcing the partnership:
Announcement: We’re now an official partner with Apple Indoor Maps, for providing indoor AR navigation!
— Dent Reality (@DentReality) March 31, 2020
Andrew Hart, CEO and cofounder of Dent Reality, told AppleInsider that Apple spotted what the company was working on “early on,” and introduced them to what is now the publicly revealed Indoor Maps Program.
Hart first built an open-source ARKit project, which he posted to GitHub in 2017, that solved the problem of tying AR experiences to real-world locations. Since then, Hart founded Dent Reality, a startup that’s been working in the AR sphere — including AR navigation — for a couple of years.
According to Hart, the goal at the end of the day is to “enable (AR maps) to exist in other places, such as in individual apps which might be more specialized, and on the web”, so we could see the use of AR for indoor navigation explode in a big way for third-party apps and services. If that is indeed the case, it appears that Apple is poised to help put a big boost in that regard.
Dent Reality is actually the only partner (for now) Apple has in the AR navigation market, according to the report:
Dent Reality is Apple’s only partner in the indoor AR navigation space, according to Hart, and it’s listed as an official partner in Indoor Maps documentation. In other words, Dent Reality is the company providing indoor AR navigation tools for Apple to offer to other businesses, which can be implemented in Apple Maps or in a third-party company’s own website and app.
The rumors have swirled for quite some time that Apple is working on its own pair of AR smart glasses (and an AR/VR headset as well). The indoor mapping effort could be a big reason why someone might want to pick up a pair of these in the future.