Apple has a plan to take on Google Maps in the car — and potentially win that race.
The folks over at Cult of Mac have uncovered an Apple patent application on a technology it's calling "Navigation Using Augmented Reality." As the name suggests, the technology would be used for navigation in a car. However, it would use augmented reality, or the application of virtual elements over the real world, to help folks do a better job of navigating.
In the patent application, Apple describes a problem with top-down viewing of lane changes in navigation software. The company specifically believes that it can be confusing when a virtual drawing of a road is displayed on navigation software to tell people which lane to be in to get off an exit.
Apple's technology would aim at fixing that by using a live feed of the road ahead and superimposing navigational elements over it. So, when you look at your screen in your car, you wouldn't see just the road drawing, you'd see the road itself. And on the road, you'd see Apple's virtual elements telling you which lane to be in.
Apple has been one of the more bullish tech companies on augmented reality and has said on numerous occasions that it's investing more heavily in that technology than virtual reality. Recent reports have suggested that Apple is working on augmented reality glasses that could launch as soon as next year. It's part of a broader push by Apple to use augmented reality to improve its products and consumer experiences.
As Cult of Mac notes, it's possible that the Apple Maps augmented reality integration could be used in those augmented reality glasses. People wearing the glasses could be driving and see which lane to turn in right from the glasses instead of relying on a separate screen.
That said, the patent application calls for an iPhone to be mounted to the dashboard and its camera facing out in order to work. It's unclear how many people would want to use the device in that way — and would mount their iPhones to the dashboard just for an augmented reality feature.
But alas, like other big tech companies, Apple files for patents all the time on technologies that may or may not make their way to its products. So, while it's possible we'll see augmented reality boost its Apple Maps appeal, it's also possible this will end up as vaporware.