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Apple maps patent promises 3D, reflections and rippling water

Tue 29 Sep 2015

Apple Maps

Apple has received a patent to develop animation technology used in its three-dimensional (3D) photorealistic maps.

U.S. Patent No. 9,147,286, filed in March 2013 and granted today by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, notes a new technology that animates specific map details such as water, trees and other objects in response to touch, movement and sound in satellite viewing mode.

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 10.23.03Tapping on a body of water, such as an ocean, lake or reservoir, may cause ripple effects, while swiping over the same area or pinching it to zoom might create rolling waves. In a similar fashion to Apple’s Flyover mode, which offers up-close city tours, the new feature builds on camera captured images (CCIs), as well as geotagged photos taken by satellites, aeroplanes, balloons, vehicles on the ground and humans. Using this photographic and geographic data, certain pixels can be rendered into a textured map and vertex shaders can be applied to create the animation.

These animations are not ‘baked’, but rather responsive effects which react dynamically to interaction from the user – recorded by the device’s sensors. The patent details foliage swaying and water shifting as the user tilts the position of the handset. It also adds that audio input recorded by the on-board microphone could interact with the elements, causing simulated waves to roll away from the sound.

Static map objects such as buildings also interact with the application, with surfaces reflecting real-time water ripples from the nearby shoreline. The technology considers different reflective properties of glass, mirror, concrete and brick and creates animation in line with these characteristics.

It is unclear when the newly patented technology will be made available on the iPhone app. For now, the Maps team seems to be focused on releasing perhaps more practical extensions such as the recently launched transit navigation tool in iOS 9.

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