Apple is exploring ways to build augmented reality into Apple Maps. Rather than top-down views of roads and intersections, the company is considering overlaying route information onto live views of the road ahead of the car.
Apple Maps has always lagged behind Google Maps. Building in AR could help it jump ahead.
AR navigation in Apple Maps
Today the company applied for a patent called, simply enough, “Navigation Using Augmented Reality.” This points out that it’s not always easy for a driver to puzzle out what lane they need to be in based on a top-down view of a map.
The description for Apple’s proposed patent says, in the stilted language of such filings, that its tech “can augment a user’s perceived reality by capturing images in front of the user (e.g., in front of a vehicle) and superimposing a navigational layer over a display of those captured images in real time. By superimposing the navigational layer over the captured images, the user can clearly and easily understand which lane to be positioned in without having to decipher how general symbols correlate with the real world.”
In other words, the system knows exactly which lane the driver is currently in, and shows them which lane they need to be in.
Combining views of the real world with computer-generated images is the very definition of augmented reality, and Apple’s proposed system is what AR was created for: overlaying additional information on reality.
For AR glasses instead?
As described, Apple’s patent requires the iPhone to be mounted on the car’s dashboard with its camera pointed toward the road. It might work better if the driver was wearing a pair of augmented-reality glasses.
Apple has supposedly been developing these for years, though a recent unconfirmed report indicated that project had been put on hold.