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Apple patent exposes augmented reality maps

Apple could be making a move into augmented reality -- it's applied for a patent that shows AR versions of its Maps and Compass apps.

Apple could be about to fill its iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices with delicious augmented reality, if a recent patent application from JobsCo is anything to go by.

The filing, spied by Patently Apple, describes new features that would superimpose geographic and location data over a feed from your device's camera. That would make it much easier to figure out where you're going, because you can actually see when you're pointing towards your destination.

We imagine that would squeeze rather neatly into Apple's Maps and Compass apps. Maps is one of iOS's best features, and already shows you which way you're facing on a top-down Google map.

If you've never heard of augmented reality, here's how it works. Your phone figures out its location using GPS, then combines this with info from its internal sensors to figure out which direction it's pointing, and which way you're tilting it. Then it mashes all that together and plasters it over what the phone's camera is looking at.

Which all sounds rather clever and futuristic until you realise you're stood in the middle of the road, spinning frantically round in circles trying to find a coffee shop.

Augmented reality has been around for ages, and there are already loads of apps, like the Layar browser's Nearest Tube, which use this sci-fi technology.

Apple hasn't yet dabbled with any of its own AR gubbins, but if it decided to stick it in its maps and compass apps, that could be the shove that pushes augmented reality into the mainstream. From there, it's only a short hop to Terminator-vision.

More importantly, augmented reality is a feature that Android's comprehensive maps application doesn't have yet, and could be a powerful weapon for Apple. Do you think Apple will invest in augmented reality? Let us know in the comments section below, or on our Facebook wall.

Image credit: Patently Apple