Apple Receives Patent for 3-D Mapping Concept

On January 7th, U.S. Patent No. 8,624,974 B2 was awarded to Apple for its newest concept: “Generating a Three-Dimensional Model Using a Portable Electronic Device Recording.”  Though it’s a mouthful to say, the idea outlined by the patent is quite simple.  iPhone users take pictures or record videos of a particular area, and those photos and videos can “be used along with other crowd-sourced media to render an object or location in three dimensions.”  The information collected would then be used to construct a three-dimensional and thoroughly up-to-date street view in Apple’s Maps application.


This concept is somewhat similar to the one behind Google Maps, but Apple’s information will be gathered and refreshed pretty much constantly.  Google Maps currently “obtains its own ‘Street View’ data by driving vehicles with 360-degree cameras on streets around the world.”  The data captured by these moving cameras is then compiled and uploaded online, thereby “allowing users to virtually traverse the world and see destinations.”  Google refreshes its Maps data (i.e. they send out the 3-D camera cars to take photos) about every four years.


Some might argue that Apple’s mapping method is cheap and Scrooge-y; others say that users won’t bother to upload videos and photos of their and other locations.  In reality, Apple’s concept is less controversial and more cost-effective than the method Google Maps uses.  Customers will have some control over what will be pictured on the Maps feature since they are the ones uploading the information.  People value their privacy, which is why Google’s methods have long been frowned upon.  Some neighborhoods have even banned the camera cars from their streets.  Because Apple’s customers are being given the power to record data for the Maps app, they will feel in control of their privacy.  Not only will Apple minimize consumer dissent, but save themselves hundreds of millions of dollars that would otherwise be wasted on 3-D camera cars and gas to fuel their worldwide trips.  Those millions saved can then be used for other purposes such as upgrades and new devices.


This 3-D mapping method could also bring a new dimension to the gaming industry.  An iPhone “user could see, in any direction, what the virtual world includes, complete with rendered images of its appearance from any location in the world.”  Another possibility is giving users App Store credit when they contribute to the Maps app with videos and photos of different locations.

It’ll be interesting to see how far Apple can take this groundbreaking concept and how much its implementation will affect consumer use of Google Maps.  We’ll keep you posted!


Images via Free Patents Online