Apple Explores Custom-Built Interactive Maps In New Patent

AppleMaps

It’s come a long way from its disastrous early days (although there is still the occasional tendency to direct someone the wrong way up an airport taxiway), but Apple Maps may finally be taking the lead over its competitors — if you’re inclined to believe Apple’s latest patent.

The patent — recently published by the US Patent and Trademark Office — was filed May 31 this year, and applies to an “Interactive Map” application, which would display multiple layers of information regarding local landmarks.

Layers would be derived from other mapping services, in addition to third-party websites. Users could choose to view highways, retail stores, city parks, airports, and/or weather: with each layer viewable separately or in a composite view, so that users could create their own customizable maps.

“The map responds to user input directed to a given feature, to display information relevant to that feature,” notes the patent. “Tapping or clicking on a highway displays the locations of services along the highway. Touching two points on the map causes available routes between them to be computed and displayed to the user, along with relevant data for each route.”

The patent additionally notes that:

“To accommodate the large amount of information that can be potentially displayed on an electronic device, some embodiments of the invention provide a map that has an interactive capability that enables a user to dynamically adjust the displayed content. In some embodiments, different viewing modes can be chosen to emphasize map features that are relevant to a particular interest, e.g. commuting, tourism, outdoor recreation, weather, shopping, and the like. Other map features that are not pertinent to that particular interest can be deemphasized, or hidden from view. A user preference item enables the user to select two or more modes for simultaneous viewing on the map, e.g. weather and outdoor recreation.Customized map views created in this manner can be saved, and shared with other users. If a user conducts a search while in a particular viewing mode, the search results can be filtered in accordance with attributes of that viewing mode. For example, a search for “food” conducted while the map is in a tourist view might present the results with priority given to restaurants in the vicinity of the user, while the same search conducted in the outdoor recreation view might prioritize according to stores that sell food for campers.”

Apple isn’t the only company interested in personalizing maps, of course. In 2012, during an interview with TechCrunch, Daniel Graf, director of Google Maps for mobile, asked the question: “If you look at a map and if I look at a map, should it always be the same for you and me? I’m not sure about that, because I go to different places than you do.”

Since then, Google has been hard at work on its personalized mapping services: a development that has raised concerns in some corners of the tech community.

Google announced its own plans in a blog post published on May 15 this year: two weeks before Apple filed its Interactive Maps patent.

It’s clear that both companies are keen to take their map apps to the next level — and also that both have similar ideas of what that involves.

The question is going to come down to who can implement the concept more effectively.

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About the author

Luke DormehlLuke Dormehl is a UK-based journalist and author, with a background working in documentary film for Channel 4 and the BBC. He is the author of The Apple Revolution, published by Random House, and is currently writing a book about algorithms for Random House/Penguin to be published in 2014. He also covers the digital humanities for Fast Company. He'd like you a lot if you followed him on Twitter.

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