The word is out that it was indeed Apple who acquired Swedish Saab spin off C3 Technologies. The latest in Apple’s quest to acquire mapping technology, presumably to pad out a solution that doesn’t include Google Maps. Right now, Google Maps is an integral part of iOS, but Google is obviously saving the best of what they have for Android handsets in a bid to set Android ahead of the iPhone in at least the area of maps. Apple on the other hand doesn’t typically stand by while getting beaten, and have been busy buying up mapping technology in recent years, and it appears the bought the cherry on the top of their mapping sundae. C3’s technology is amazing, and is unofficially being called “Google Maps On Steroids”, and for good reason. While you can walk down the street and look left and right, up and down in Google Street View, C3’s Rapid 3D Mapping combines the ability to map terrain in 3D for the topographical data as well as photographing for textural data, and then combining the 3D model with the textures to produce a photo-realistic 3D scene with 10 cm resolution. Not only that, but the data is acquired by flying a plane 500 meters overhead with the ability to gather data at a rate of 100 square kilometers per hour. At that rate, by my math, the entire surface of the United States could be covered in just under 100,000 man hours, or about a dozen planes working 24/7 for about a year. Now, using Google Maps Street View’s data gathering “rule” of not before 9 am or after 5 pm to ensure relatively uniform lighting, you’d need about 36 planes working 8 hr shifts for about a year to map the country. Now that IS rapid mapping. Also consider you only need to fly at 500 meters, so small, inexpensive aircraft can do the trick, and on the relative cheap considering Apple’s balance sheet. They could literally update the maps annually.
This is not to take away from Google Maps at all. Google maps has some pretty neat tech of it’s own in it’s street view system, but just imagine Google Maps Street View with the ability to go up the driveway and into the back yard and look around in complete 3D…
I imagine ultimately Apple will develop a map app that will have enough functionality to replace Google Maps, and have something in it’s place that’s good enough to replace the awesome job Google has done with Google Maps.
Check out the video below to get an idea of the technology.