Apple Patent Points to Possible AR Navigation Device

Someday soon, iOS users might finally have a reason to use Apple Maps. MacRumors says the company has gotten its hands on an augmented-reality patent under the fancy-sounding title of visual-based inertial navigation. That implies that Apple could give you directions in real-time using an augmented reality overlay.

So how will this work? The technology will utilize one of your iPhone's cameras and combine that with information gathered from its accelerometer and gyroscope. It'll use that info to create a picture of the phone's real-time location in physical space.

MORE: What Is Augmented Reality?

The patent suggests that the visual-based inertial navigation systems are exact enough to narrow down the device's position to the centimeter without relying on network or GPS signals. That should help preserve your device's battery, unlike Pokemon Go, which is a certified battery killer. However, since the processing demands will be higher than normal, this technology can't be supported by any current iPhone. It would need a much faster (and larger-screened) device, similar to Lenovo's Phab2 Pro.

The 7.1 x 3.5-inch, 9.2-ounce Phab2 Pro is the first smartphone to feature Google's Project Tango augmented-reality technology. Google uses a combination of AR, 3D motion-tracking and depth perception to deliver a number of immersive experiences, including taking a walking dinosaur tour or mapping out a room to place virtual furniture.

In Apple's case, the company is looking more toward getting you from point A to point B with overlays or potentially highlighting points of interests as you make your way around a store.

In order to keep the AR iPhone at a reasonable size, Apple will be incorporating what it calls a sliding window inverse filter. The filter will ease some of the computational load by using predictive coding to map objects position relative to the smartphone.

As heady as all this sounds, it's unknown when if any of this patent's technology will be making it into your iPhone. Although Apple has been interested in making a push into both AR and VR, we've yet to see any hardware that delivers on the company's myriad of patents.