Apple Buys Company To Add Killer 3D To Its Maps

For the past few years, Apple has been hammering away at building its own mapping platform to shake the yoke of Google Maps. It just took another step toward assembling its cartographic Frankenstein's monster by buying up C3 Technologies, which assembles hyper-realistic 3D maps and integrates them with more traditional 2D maps and photos.

C3 creates insanely detailed maps that are accurate to within 15cm, and has really nifty flyover views, which are sort of like a Hulked-up version of Google's recent rollout, Helicopter view. It was actually sold almost three months ago, but at the time the buyer was a mystery. Folks had already been guessing it was Apple, but now we know.

C3 Technologies is the third mapping company Apple's picked up in as many years. In 2009, it bought Placebase, which specialised in customisation and layering information on maps. Then last year it bought Poly9, a Google Earth-like project.

Apple has a history of only buying companies that it fully intends to use. The obvious example is its purchase of Siri last year, which is now one of the key features of the new iPhone 4S. But also look at its purchase of P.A. Semi in 2008, which spawned the A4 and A5 chips that have powered the last few generations of iOS devices. There's a plan here.

Between the three mapping companies and the crowd-sourced traffic service we know Apple's working on, it sure looks like they're readying to make war with Google Maps with a patchwork mapping golem of its own.




    lol @ qbasic Gorilla, those were days. Also looks pretty neat.

    I can't imagine they'd release free Navigation for their devices. It'll completely screw over their app devs like Tom Tom who are currently charging $80+ on the AppStore for the same service.

    Also doesn't matter how many mapping companies Apple buys, it won't reach the level of coverage currency offered by Google Maps with Streetview. This photorealistic 3D is completely impractical because it's so data intensive. This would be like using Google Earth on steroids... on a 3G connection.

      This is Apple we're talking about here - they've always screwed over the little 3rd party developer whenever it suits them.

      This has been a long time coming and slower than I expected. Apple has always tried to keep core functionality in-house.

      Steve, sorry to get you and other Android fanboys scared. This technology for mapping is light years ahead of Google ' s approach.

      Google basically hires gazillion cars to roam around countless streets of the world for days, weeks, months. On the contrary this technology evidently coming out of military research needs a jet to scan an area in 3d. Within a matter of hours hundreds of miles are covered. I bet apple already has jets flying all around the world mapping everything in 3d with this technology.

        If by world you mean America then you might be correct, and good job dragging a article about mapping software to the old iOS vs android debate.

        Yeah it's mostly automated models and textures created from aerial imagery, etc.

        There are many companies that supply geospatial data, and many companies that deal with the creation of 3d models using this data, etc.

      I hope they do. It'll put pressure on TomTom to make their app better.

      Like making HD Traffic consistantly work, especially since I'm paying $30 a year for it.

    Very cool! If Apple gets rid of Google Maps from its devices though, I wonder if we will get an equivalent version of Street View. This 3D mapping appears to be aerial view only. However, Street View has many wonderful uses that I would miss (ie - finding a business before driving there, so I don't drive around missing it; scouting in advance where I should park; revisiting an interesting spot that I drove by earlier to read a sign that I saw). Either Apple is going to continue to have some relationship with Google for their Street View data, or Apple will need their own mapping vehicles, or Apple devices will have a glaring deficiency in their mapping software.

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