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Will Apple produce 3D maps as vivid as Siri is clever?

Apple's third acquisition of a mapping company has reportedly been confirmed. The buyout raises tantalizing questions about the possibility of a cartographic confection as delicious in its vividness as Apple voice-assistant Siri is snappy and sly in her query responses.

Edward Moyer Senior Editor
Edward Moyer is a senior editor at CNET and a many-year veteran of the writing and editing world. He enjoys taking sentences apart and putting them back together. He also likes making them from scratch. ¶ For nearly a quarter of a century, he's edited and written stories about various aspects of the technology world, from the US National Security Agency's controversial spying techniques to historic NASA space missions to 3D-printed works of fine art. Before that, he wrote about movies, musicians, artists and subcultures.
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  • Ed was a member of the CNET crew that won a National Magazine Award from the American Society of Magazine Editors for general excellence online. He's also edited pieces that've nabbed prizes from the Society of Professional Journalists and others.
Edward Moyer
2 min read
Former C3 Technologies Product Manager Ludvig Emgard pinches an iPad and zooms in toward Big Ben during a demo of the company's product at CES 2011. An Apple buy of C3 has reportedly been confirmed. Netbooknews.com YouTube video. Screenshot by Edward Moyer/CNET

Apple has bought its third mapping company, beefing up its cartographic portfolio with eye-popping 3D imagery based on declassified missile-targeting technology, a report says.

The purported confirmation of the buyout raises tantalizing questions about the possibility of a new mapping experience supercharged by Apple's oft-praised design sensibilities--a cartographic confection as delicious in its vividness as Apple voice-assistant Siri is snappy and sly in her query responses.

Apple's acquisition of Sweden's C3 Technologies was rumored by various blogs back in August, but 9to5 Mac says it has now confirmed the buy. As the blog points out, the purchase adds C3's technology to the mapping goodies Apple previously acquired by swallowing cartographic companies Placebase and Poly9 (the latter of which also specialized in 3D mapping).

9to5 Mac says most of the former C3 team is still working away in Sweden, but now as an Apple division called "Sputnik." And the blog likens the acquisition(s)--and the possible fruit of Apple's all-but-obvious mapping labors--to Apple's buy of the company behind the Siri iPhone app

, and to the eventual debut of the headline-grabbing Siri virtual personal assistant as an integral part of the iPhone 4S.

Does the C3 buy herald a stunning cartographic offering from Apple somewhere down the road? It's tempting--and fun--to think so.

Former C3 Technologies Product Manager Ludvig Emgard explained at CES 2011 that C3's--now Apple's--3D software is based on "former classified military technology," and he called it "Google Maps on steroids." Emgard told blog Netbooknews.com at CES that the technology differs from Google Earth in that it's "much more realistic; it's a complete canvas."

Below, I've embedded Netbooknews' interview with Emgard--whom 9to5 Mac says has been kept on by Apple. In it, we see the obviously excited C3 rep demoing the flashy maps on not only the iPad but on a Galaxy Tab as well. It's a pretty safe bet that Apple has halted any Android development of the technology (and it's somewhat amusing to think that an Apple buy of former missile-targeting technology could be a tangential part of Steve Jobs' desire to "go thermonuclear war" on Android).

Take a look at the video and tell us what you think: With the eventual iPhone 5, will we be asking Siri to fly us, Peter Pan and Wendy-like, over the dazzlingly rendered streets of London, as if we were on a Disneyland ride? And if so, what crack will M'selle Robot-Voice make as she takes us by our gently pinching hand to honor our request?

Here's the video from our charmingly accented friends at Netbooknews.com: