Apple's CEO Tim Cook has made no secret of his preference for augmented reality over virtual reality applications. And with a glimpse at a newly-granted patent application for the Cupertino company, we now have a good look at what those future iPhone AR ambitions may be.
Submitted back in February 2010 and granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday, Apple's "augmented reality maps" patent shows off how digital mapping data could be overlaid onto real-time video from an iPhone's camera.
Eschewing a headset in favor of mobile AR, the proposed application would make use of a phone's GPS, camera, accelerometer and compass to locate a user in the world, and then place markers for places of interest on top of the real-world video feed coming from the camera.
Turning the camera to face other locations would reveal new points of interest (without removing the previously identified ones, ready to be turned back to), while tapping one of the floating markers would then overlay navigation and direction instructions over the real-time footage.
Think Google Maps, but with the iPhone acting as a window on which you can paint a route to a destination.
As ever, a patent application is not necessarily indicative of a product in progress. But, at the very least, it shows Apple's AR intentions are not a knee-jerk reaction, having been quietly submitting patents like this since 2010.