Apple may be eyeing its own "Street View" type navigation system and one that offers a key benefit over Google's version.
Published today by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple's "3D Position Tracking for Panoramic Imagery Navigation" patent filing describes a navigation technology that looks and works like Street View. The system would display a panoramic image of a certain location on your mobile device, allowing you to virtually move around the area.
Google's Street View forces you to swipe your finger or tap on a direction icon to journey along your path, a process that can be cumbersome. Apple's patent instead describes a way to physically move your mobile device through space in order to move around in the virtual map environment. Moving the device up, down, left, or right would move your virtual view of the displayed location accordingly.
The technology could let you virtually enter and exit a building, go through an intersection, or turn at a street corner.
In some cases, information can be overlaid on top of the display to point out local businesses and other areas of interest.
To further expand the view, two different and adjacent devices can each display their own portion of the panorama. For example, two smartphones or tablets could be positioned in either portrait or landscape mode to collectively show more of the displayed location.
The system itself would use the mobile device's onboard camera, accelerometer, and sensors to convert your physical motion into movements on the map. The technology would also be smart enough to know how and where to move on the virtual map, as described below in the patent application:
In some implementations, translations can be associated with more than one navigation command based on context. For example, when a right translation is detected and the observer is standing at an intersection of a virtual street in the panoramic imagery, the right translation can be mapped to the navigation command for moving the observer around a corner of the intersection. However, if the observer is not at an intersection in the panoramic imagery then the right translation command can initiate panning of the observer's perspective at the current location on the virtual street in the panoramic imagery.
Last year, Apple decided to jettison Google Maps as the default iOS maps app in favor of its own product. But the company was hit by widespread criticism and ridicule after its own app proved to be loaded with mistakes.
A future version of Apple's Maps app that one-ups Google Maps with a better street view could give Apple the edge in the navigation app wars.
The patent was filed by Apple in September of 2011.