Apple granted patents for augmented reality maps, a web-based spell checker

Apple has been granted a patent (number 9,488,488) for “augmented reality maps.” If the technology ever sees the light of day (and I’d bet that it will) look for augmented reality (AR) features in the Maps app on the iPhone.

According to the patent, a user points a “handheld communication device” (which I’ll simply refer to as the iPhone from now on) to capture and display a real-time video stream. The iPhone detects geographic position, camera direction, and tilt of the image capture device. The user sends a search request to a server for nearby points of interest. 

The iPhone receives search results based on the search request, geographic position, camera direction, and tilt of the handheld communication device. The Apple smartphone visually augments the captured video stream with data related to each point of interest. The user then selects a point of interest to visit. The iPhone visually augments the captured video stream with a directional map to a selected point of interest in response to the user input.

In the patent filing, Apple notes that AR systems supplement reality, in the form of a captured image or video stream, with additional information. In many cases, such systems take advantage of a portable electronic device's imaging and display capabilities and combine a video feed with data describing objects in the video. In some examples, the data describing the objects in the video can be the result of a search for nearby points of interest. 

For example, a user visiting a foreign city can point a handheld communication device and capture a video stream of a particular view. A user can also enter a search term, such as museums. The system can then augment the captured video stream with search term result information related to nearby museums that are within the view of the video stream. This allows a user to supplement their view of reality with additional information available from search engines. 

However, if a user desires to visit one of the museums, the user must switch applications, or at a minimum, switch out of an augmented reality view to learn directions to the museum. However, as Apple notes, such systems can fail to orient a user's with a poor sense of direction and force the user to correlate the directions with objects in reality. Such a transition isn’t always as easy as it might seem. For example, an instruction that directs a user to go north on Main St. assumes that the user can discern which direction is north. 

What’s more, Apple notes that, in some instances, street signs might be missing or indecipherable, making it difficult for the user to find the directed route. The company thinks it can alleviate these problems.

Apple has also been granted a patent (number 9,489,372) for a web-based spell checker. Per the patent, a fast client-side spell checker is provided that builds efficient structures out of dictionary and a common misspelling list and uses the structures to prune the number of searches required to identify misspelled words and provide suggestions for correcting the misspelled words. The spell checker is a browser-based application, which is provided by a server to a client device. 

The server sends the dictionary and a list of common misspellings to the client device in the form of efficient data structures. The spell checker utilizes a set of rules to identify the words that are not in the dictionary but are intended to be correct as typed. It’s used by different browser-based applications that utilize the same spell checker regardless of the browser platform used to access the applications. The spell checker, therefore, provides a uniform spell checking user experience across different browser platforms.

Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.