Apart from Google, there’s at least one other firm developing augmented reality (AR) maps. Yesterday (26 February 2019), Apple registered a patent with the US Patent and Trademark Office for a “method for representing points of interest in a view of a real environment on a mobile device.”
In English, that means looking at things via an AR lens.
This technology would, for example, be able to recognise and display information about objects such as buildings and other landmarks in the user’s view – quite handy when you travel to a foreign city.
The patent also mentions that the technology could be useful inside buildings and cars to identify specific objects – e.g. helping to locate your glasses or pointing out something about a room you might have missed.
Apple applied for this particular patent nearly two years ago, but it was only granted yesterday. Of course, it doesn’t mean that the firm will definitely release AR products – businesses regularly register patents that never become commercial products.
In this case, however, it’s not just the patent that points to Apple possibly developing an AR headset. The company has acquired various AR-related businesses over the last few years. It also introduced ARKit in iOS – and Apple’s CEO Tim Cook openly says that AR excites him.
The latest patent focuses more on using AR in iPhones and iPads than AR headsets, but it doesn’t rule out the possibility of such a device. It refers to a “semi-transparent” display similar to those in AR products such as smart glasses that might be used in combination with this technology. A drawing filed with the application appears to point to something similar to AR smart glasses.
Only the future will tell whether millions of people will soon be looking at the world through Apple AR glasses, but it’s certainly an interesting possibility.