Apple Wins Augmented Reality Patent to Make Mapping Interactive

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Apple was awarded a patent this week for an augmented reality function that can tag objects in a live video stream and present information about those objects in an overlay on the screen, the Apple Insider reported.

Published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple’s U.S. Patent No. 8,400,548 for “Synchronized, interactive augmented reality displays for multifunction devices” could add better interactive functions for mapping, enable users to share tours of favorite tourist attractions customized with personal information, or enable art galleries and museums to offer interactive videos about their collections. Mapping features could provide more detailed information about various points of interest.  It would enable users to point an iPhone or iPad at an object or city location and receive information about the object.

“A device can receive live video of a real-world, physical environment on a touch sensitive surface. One or more objects can be identified in the live video,” the patent describes. “An information layer can be generated related to the objects. In some implementations, the information layer can include annotations made by a user through the touch sensitive surface. The information layer and live video can be combined in a display of the device.”

One example the patent lists is a user pointing a camera at a circuit board. The live video feed would display the images of the board overlaid with information about its various parts, provided via a website, database, or online library. The display would also allow users to add their own annotations through writing or drawing them on a portable device, and share them with other users.

Users could also edit the data to personalize or correct inaccuracies. The patent also allows for a split screen that could display the pure video stream in one screen and the information-overlay video in another.

Though the patent has obvious mobile implications, it also mentions such as PCs, gaming systems, and media players.

Apple’s approach to augmented reality is unique in its sharing and collaboration potential, especially as our web use only becomes more social.