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Today, Apple has been granted a patent for an augmented reality mapping system, adding some credibility to recent rumors of augmented reality being included in future versions of iOS.
U.S. Patent No. 9,488,488, as Cupertino’s patent is officially dubbed, describes a couple different methods of using the iPhone’s suite of sensors to overlay real-time, augmented reality data over a user’s live video stream, according to the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.
One method could allow iPhone owners to use AR to explore their nearby environments. The patent describes a system that uses data such as a “search request, geographic position, camera direction, and tilt” of the device to visually augment a user’s video stream with street names, nearby locations, and other points of interest.
The patent also describes a way to overlay onscreen path indicators or a directional map over a device’s video stream — leading users right to their desired point of interest. That’s where the device’s tilt comes into play. Depending on your smartphone’s orientation, the system could switch from live video with path indicators to a bird’s-eye view map seamlessly, according to AppleInsider.
And this patent adds some fuel to rumors of Apple’s augmented reality endeavors. For a while now, Apple has been looking at ways of incorporating augmented reality into its various systems and devices. In October, Apple CEO Tim Cook predicted that we could expect AR systems coming to iOS in the “not-too-distant-future,” Business Insider reported.
Apple isn’t the only one experimenting with the technology. Google, Microsoft and Facebook are also scrambling to rollout their own augmented and virtual reality systems. Apple, for their part, is largely expected to first debut AR technology in its iPhone lineup — which is notable, in a way, because the iPhone first introduced multi-touch displays to a large audience. Apple could do something similar for augmented reality.
But incorporating AR technology isn’t exactly a cakewalk. Apple would still need to tweak their devices’ cameras and hardware to be able to implement the technology. They also need to provide a platform for other developers to build augmented reality apps for the App Store.
While having more dedicated AR software and hardware built-into the iPhone would, no doubt, be impressive — Apple could also break new ground by incorporating the technology in other areas. For example, Apple has been rumored to be working on self-driving car systems — including an augmented reality display with Siri integration.
The “augmented reality maps” patent was first applied for by Apple in February 2010, and not much in the document has changed in the last six years. Its inventor is credited as Jaron Waldman.