Apple Maps app was widely criticised when it first launched, but the Cupertino company has slowly made changes and updated the app to provide similar functionality as Google Maps. However, one area that Google still holds as a trump card is the Street View function. Looks like Apple is now gunning for that coveted feature as well.

A patent application discovered by Apple Insider hints that Apple is looking to deploy a navigation system based on panoramic location data. Such a system would pretty much mimic Street View. Published by the US Patent and Trademark Office, Apple's patent application was filed in September 2011 and Patrick Piemonte and Billy Chen are listed as the inventors.

One of the images from the patent filing

One of the images from the patent filing

The patent application for 3D Position Tracking for Panoramic Imagery Navigation describes a GUI that uses the iPhone or iPad's sensors to navigate panoramic imagery. Apple's method reportedly improves upon technology like Google's Street View, which requires users to use either a mouse or multitouch screen to navigate. Users must navigate to a panoramic area on a point in the map, before moving on. As is seen typically in cases when the device in question is not the latest in the market, this process is tedious and can be highly time consuming.

Apple wants to take this tediousness out of the equation. The street view implementation on an iPhone will track subsystems and onboard sensors to translate a user's physical motion into a panoramic navigation UI. Firstly, users have to pinch on the map or drop a pin before they are taken to the Street View mode. Once there, they can move their device in any direction to view panoramic imagery supplied by the built-in storage or through cellular data. Movement is controlled by moving the device forward and back.

The sensors will continue to collect movement data, including linear and velocity metrics, and translating the motions into the GUI. Further, the filing notes augmented reality-like pop-ups when users are near places of interests or popular hangout spots in the area. These pop-ups can be customised according to a user's preferences and will be classified as “businesses”, “movie halls” etc. The bubbles can also be hidden to reduce clutter.

The application also mentions the use of multiple displays so users can sync the street level navigation between different devices and also use the increased screen real estate and connectivity for a better experience.

At the moment, Apple’s Street View feature seems much more nuanced. Street View on Google Maps is due for a revamp. Now, if only someone told Google to focus on that instead of giving us Street View for Mount Everest and the likes.

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