Apple’s Latest Idea Will Allow iPhone Users to Create 3D Models


A 3D modeling concept outlined in a new patent from Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) may provide the Cupertino-based company with its own version of Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Maps’ “Street View” feature, reports Apple Insider. In a patent titled, “Generating a three-dimensional model using a portable electronic device recording,” Apple describes a method for creating a virtual representation of a three-dimensional environment by using the camera of an iPhone or other portable electronic device.

As noted in the patent abstract, “the recorded images or video” would be tagged “with movement information describing the movement of the device during the recording.” This would allow the various recorded data to be pieced together into a coherent “three-dimensional model of the recorded environment or object.”

As noted by Apple Insider, this method would allow Apple to create its own street-level 3D mapping feature by crowdsourcing data from many different users’ devices. Apple Maps currently features a mapping perspective known as “Flyover,” in lieu of Google’s “Street View.” “Flyover” is a 3D representation of cities from an aerial perspective. However, by using continually updated recordings from multiple users, Apple could create a street-level mapping feature that would be more up-to-date than Google’s “Street View,” since it wouldn’t rely on images from a onetime pass by a Google vehicle.

Apple’s concept could also have other potential uses beyond creating a street-level perspective for Apple Maps. Users would have the ability to create 3D models of any object they recorded with their device. As stated by Apple, “a user can direct the electronic device to display a three-dimensional object (e.g., an object for sale) that the user can manipulate or view from different angles.”

Users could also create 3D representations of environments for purposes other than mapping. Apple pointed out that this system could be used to create interactive 3D models of sporting events or concerts. “For example, recordings of a sporting event by several cameras can be combined to generate three-dimensional models of plays that users can navigate (e.g., navigate around a batter hitting a ball in baseball, or around a football play to see whether the ball carrier reached a particular mark),” stated Apple. “As another example, recordings could be used to generate three-dimensional models of concerts or other public events.”

Apple also noted that this concept could be used to quickly and easily create a 3D rendering of a building or home that could be navigated by others. Finally, Apple noted that this concept could also be used to create interactive video games that overlay virtual images onto a 3D model of an environment. Users would then be able to see the virtual images by viewing the environment through their iPhone or other device.

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