Apple to target Google Maps using military grade 3D tech

Apple takes Swedish military tech

C3 was founded by Saab Venture in 2008. The firm uses technology developed with the Swedish military to develop interesting consumer solutions. In this case, Apple has acquired an arm of Saab (C3) which creates stunningly realistic 3D mapping solutions, photo-realistic models of the world for search, navigation and geographic information systems using complex algorithms.

The way the company collects these images is quite interesting, as these are gathered: “Using multiple cameras on airplanes coupled with missile-targeting tech to provide users with incredibly realistic maps which include pixel-depth mapping allowing you to know exactly how high in the air any area of the map happens to be.

The Saab connection

Rumors of the acquisition — which is expected to give Apple an advantage against Google Maps — first appeared in mid-July, when Saab AB announced it had agreed to sell its shares in the spin-off firm.

Apple had been rumored to spend up to a billion on the purchase, though Saab only took $150 million for its majority stake, so that estimate may be overblown.

“We have promised not to say who the buyer is. But there are no Chinese or other Asian companies. It is a company in the Western world, says one of Saab today after the deal is worth 1 billion,” reported Know Your Mobile in July.

Will Google Maps meet its match?

Apple, Google and Microsoft were allegedly competing for the firm. Despite this weekend’s claim that the deal has been confirmed, Apple’s mooted purchase has not yet been independently verified by a reputable news organization.

That Apple wants to deliver a superior experience in comparison to that peddled by Google and its vendors within the Android ‘experience’ is not in doubt.

Apple CEO Tim Cook’s famed “Cook Doctrine” says: “We believe that we’re on the face of the Earth to make great products, and that’s not changing….[Apple] will participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution.”

Nokia connection, too

C3 Technologies became part of Nokia’s Ovi Maps in April, 2011. At that time apress release let us know that the company had a database of more than 100 cities in 3D, including 20 major worldwide cities:

Barcelona, Boston, Chicago, Copenhagen, Florence, Helsinki, Las Vegas, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Miami, Milan, New York, Oslo, Prague, San Francisco, Stockholm, Toronto, Venice and Vienna.

The technology was originally made available as a platform for social and commercial applications serving local search, real estate, travel, tourism, media, and entertainment, as well as government, utilities, and telecommunications.

Apple has invested a great deal of time and effort in delivering a superior alternative to Google Maps. The company acquired mapping firm Placebase in July 2009 and last year purchased French-Canadian mapping-software firm Poly9 (which boasted NORAD among its clients), a company which developed APIs which used the assets from other maps.

Build from this…

As the video above shows, Apple’s Placebase technology was capable of some pretty impressive tricks even two years ago when the clip appeared. Now Apple’s iOS and OS X teams have spent some time tweaking all its acquired mapping technologies, it will be highly interesting to see what comes out of Cupertino’s mapping labs.

Does this kind of virtual reality technology need to stop at maps? It will be interesting to see if Apple can harness its so-called Kinect patents with this newly-acquired 3D mapping technology in order to create new families of immersive experiences across its product line:

Imagine flying across the planet on the big screen with nothing but an Apple TV, iPad or iPhone? All controlled by the ever-learning Siri spoken word interface, perhaps.

Apple very likely hopes to take Google Maps and blow it out the water with a far superior implementation of more sophisticated mapping technologies.

I can imagine fully augmented 3D maps capable of delivering spoken word instructions to various destinations: travel directions of various kinds, and also directions to local business and points of interest. In conjunction with iAds and NFC-based product initiatives, I also anticipate some highly curious implementations of new business to consumer via mobile marketing initiatives.

What are your thoughts on how Apple might apply its newly-acquired mapping technologies?