Apple May Have Just Bought The Company Behind The Most Sci-Fi Mapping Tech You’ll Ever See

Earlier this year, a little Swedish company called C3 Technologies took CES by storm, demonstrating their incredible iOS and Android apps that leveraged formerly top secret missile targeting technology to create ultra-realistic 3D maps.

Fast forward seven months, and C3 Technologies’ website is a ghost town, and C3’s parent company, Saab, has sold off it’s 57.8% stake in the company in a deal that is worth over $157 million dollars.

So who bought them? Our best guess: Apple.

Saab has only said they sold their stake to a “Western company,” but watch the video above, and look at this tech description, and then imagine iOS 6 with this technology baked in:

C3’s models are generated with little human intervention. First, a plane equipped with a custom-designed package of professional-grade digital single-lens reflex cameras takes aerial photos. Four cameras look out along the main compass points, at oblique angles to the ground, to image buildings from the side as well as above. Additional cameras (the exact number is secret) capture overlapping images from their own carefully determined angles, producing a final set that contains all the information needed for a full 3-D rendering of a city’s buildings. Machine-vision software developed by C3 compares pairs of overlapping images to gauge depth, just as our brains use stereo vision, to produce a richly detailed 3-D model.

“Unlike Google or Bing, all of our maps are 360° explorable,” says Smith, “and everything, every building, every tree, every landmark, from the city center to the suburbs, is captured in 3-D—not just a few select buildings

Incredible. If Apple didn’t buy these guys up, Steve Jobs should personally shoot the guy who passed this opportunity by. As MacRumors notes, this would seriously reduce Apple’s dependance on Google Maps and open the door for Apple to aggressively take iOS mapping to the next level without being in bed with Android’s makers.

[via MacRumors]

  • Raj Randev

    Yeah, we all hope that Apple bought it, but most likely it was Google.  It makes more sense for them to have this…

  • quietstorms

    It was not Google. Google likes to announce all their purchases. They just announced they acquired Dealmap today. The same goes for MS.

    It’s only Apple’s M.O. to have a company completely disappear off the face of the Earth with no comment as to who purchased them.

    Looking at the video, it’s rather stunning this could be accomplished and negates the need to have vans running around and taking pictures of everything (while snooping on wi-fi).

  • xs2jerome

    Actually…this looks exactly like Nokia maps:

  • Friends of Mac

    Going after G-Maps is a big challenge…


  • MacGoo

    “Seriously reduce Apple’s dependence” is key. How extensive is this map database? Sure, it’s cool if it’s a hyper-real 3D map of London, but what about all the other major metro areas? What about smaller communities? Google’s appeal isn’t just in its tech, but in its gargantuan database of information.

  • MacGoo

    “Seriously reduce Apple’s dependence” is key. How extensive is this map database? Sure, it’s cool if it’s a hyper-real 3D map of London, but what about all the other major metro areas? What about smaller communities? Google’s appeal isn’t just in its tech, but in its gargantuan database of information.

  • quietstorms

    Nokia relies on some of C3’s tech but it’s doubt they bought it considering they lost a ton of money this quarter and, by Elop’s own admission, is living off of patent royalties.

  • Phil Bertz

    Y’all caught this recent post, right? Entitled, “A Brief History of Apple Not Buying Things…”

  • Mike Rathjen

    Yes but they’ve partnered with Microsoft. MS certainly has the cash so maybe they’ve bought it to use with Windows Phone 8 on Nokia handsets.

  • Phil Bertz

    Y’all saw this recent article entitled “A Brief History of Apple Not Buying Things,” right?

  • pennstate

    Check out this awesome apple blog! 

  • 300AShareMakesMeSmile

    I still like Google Maps because it’s Street View has good details of most of my friends and relatives houses (although a few houses are missing) even if they’re slightly out of date.  I enjoy using Street View to make like I’ve been to places I’ve never been to in real life.  The only drawback I can see is that Google can only map places where the van can drive to.  They need get their mapping hardware smaller and lighter so they could put it on someone’s back and continue mapping.  It doesn’t matter whether Apple bought this company or not.  They’ll probably charge an arm and a leg for its use of using the mapping technology.  Google likes to give things away and Apple isn’t that generous.  I think that this newer technology should be joined up with Google’s street van technology.  Every country on the planet should have Google vans running around collecting data every so often.

  • Mario Barreto
  • Demonstr8r

    I can think of several companies that would snatch up C3: Apple, Google, Digital Globe, GeoEye, Microsoft, just to name a few.

  • bav144

    Check out this awesome apple blog! 

  • David

    This story is wild conjecture; Google makes the most sense, but there are so many who would want the tech. I hope JB is right; this would be AWESOME integrated into Apple’s augmented reality/navigation future.

    And QuietStorms is right, C3’s sudden radio silence fits Apple’s MO.

  • ringmaster

    This is the terrible thing about company buyouts.  C3’s technology is impressive, but now – if Apple is the buyer – it’s likely to get walled away from the world behind Apple’s proprietary code.  At least if Google owned it, we’d see the technology everywhere.  Instead, my iOS devices will show this type of map, where I won’t be able to plug new things into it (Have you seen 3rd-party use of the Google Maps API?  Some of these applications are quite fantastic.), and I’ll not have access to view it from any other platform.  Basically, Apple buying it cripples it.

  • lsla49
  • Dilbert A


About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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