Apple could soon be bringing augmented reality to its camera app.
According to recent reports, the firm's goal for the project is to give users access to futuristic spatial recognition and mapping.
Using augmented reality (AR), Apple would use the iPhone’s advanced sensors to generate real-time views of the user’s surroundings while superimposing digital information.
Specialists from several AR start-ups are involved in the project, an anonymous expert told Business Insider.
Augmented reality in Apple's camera could enrich a live view of a city street with a map for directions, facts about nearby buildings, or add an animated video game character to the scene.
Users could even be provided multiple views based on the angle of the device.
They may instead see an illustrated or schematic map view if the angle indicates the device is being pointed at the ground where there would be few objects of interest.
'Apple wants consumers to be able to point the phone at a real-world object and have it be recognised,' the anonmyous expert told Business Insider.
Alongside AR mapping, facial recognition and manipulation may be an additional goal for Apple, Business Insider reports.
This would allow users to apply Snapchat-style filters to their faces from the camera app.
Augmented reality is an exploding area of technology in which digital imagery and information can be superimposed over the real world.
Users can point their phone at a real-world object and have it recognised by their device.
AR technology was used in the popular mobile game Pokemon Go.
Third party apps would also have access the iPhone's new augmented reality technology, if it were to go ahead, opening the door for a host of new AR apps.
'Eventually,' the expert said, 'after the AR features are built into the iPhone camera app, Apple will release the technology behind them as an SDK for app developers.'
User may instead see an illustrated or schematic map view if the angle indicates the device is being pointed at the ground where there would be few objects of interest (pictured)
'At that point, Apple will become a competitor to companies like Vuforia and Blippar.'
Bloomberg reported on Monday that Apple is also working on creating augmented reality smart glasses, possibly in addition to this AR project.
Google, Microsoft, Facebook Snapchat and Apple are all racing to develop such a product.
The glasses would connect wirelessly to the phone and project images and data to the wearer.
Apple has recently hired expert John Border, specialist in head-mounted displays and plastic optics, hinting at a possible foray into smart glasses in the near future.
Apple's work on smart-glasses is still in its early stages, with no new product expected until at least 2018.
It would appear Apple is investing in an augmented reality camera app until then.
Apple is also working on creating augmeted reality smart glasses (pictured). These glasses would connect wirelessly to the phone and project images and data to the wearer
Speaking to Buzzfeed News , Tim Cook has previously suggested the firm may instead be focusing on augmented reality, explaining that technology should encourage human contact. This comes just months after the Apple CEO remarked that the firm is ‘high on AR’
Over the past few years, Apple has remained tight-lipped about its plans for future systems, the firm has made numerous moves in the direction of AR.
This includes the acquisition of PrimeSense in 2013 – the company responsible for the motion-capture system in the original Microsoft Kinect – and the hiring of numerous researchers with VR backgrounds.
Apple has previously used machine learning technology to develop basic object-recognition software into the photos app, which can read 2D objects.
The programme will scan your photos for objects and scenes and place them into categories of either 'people' or 'places'.
But the new augmented feature would be a big step up, with the camera capable of complex, real-time recognition of 3D objects too.
Business Insider report Apple declined to comment, and at the time of writing Apple had not responded to MailOnline's request for comment.
The news follows on from a patent filed by Apple earlier this month for an augmented mapping system.
The firm was granted a patent for ‘Augmented reality maps’ November 8.
According to the document, it will use GPS, a digital compass, and an accelerometer to determine location, camera direction, and the device’s orientation.
Combined with the device's on-board camera, this could give users an interactive mapping tool that incorporates their actual surroundings.
‘By interpreting the data describing the surrounding areas, the device can determine what objects are presently being viewed on the display,’ the patent says.
‘The device can further overlay information regarding the presently viewed objects, thus enhancing reality.’
The patent came shortly after Tim Cook, speaking to Buzzfeed News, suggested the firm may be focusing on augmented reality, explaining that technology should encourage human contact.
The Apple CEO had previously remarked that the firm is ‘high on AR’ and raved about Pokémon Go.
‘There’s no substitute for human contact,’ Cook said in an exclusive interview with Buzzfeed News.
‘And so you want the technology to encourage that.’
And, according to Buzzfeed News, the Apple has been having meetings with immersive content companies, including Jaunt.
The firm’s latest handsets also feature what could be the means to support AR, with the iPhone 7 plus hosting a Wide Color display and two-camera system that can gather stereoscopic data and generate image depth maps, Buzzfeed reports.
‘VR has some interesting applications, but I don’t think it’s a broad-based technology like AR,’ Cook told Buzzfeed.
‘Augmented reality will take some time to get right, but I do think that it’s profound. We might…have a more productive conversation, if both of us have an AR experience standing here, right?
‘And so I think that things like these are better when they’re incorporated withouta becoming a barrier to our talking.
'You want the technology to amplify it, not be a barrier.’
AUGMENTED REALITY MAPPING
Using augmented reality, Apple would use the iPhone’s advanced sensors to generate real-time views of the user’s surroundings with digital information superimposed.
The system could even overlay directional indicators to the live video stream, visualizing the course and any upcoming turns on the way to a given location, and letting the user know if they’re facing the wrong direction.
In some forms, the system would allow for users to see search results on top of the live video, even if these points are not viewable in real life, allowing them to visualize the way to more distant objects.
And in another embodiment, the user could even be provided multiple display views based on the angle of the device.
When held between 45 and 180 degrees relative to the ground, the augmented reality view may appear.
But, when held at a smaller angle, the user may instead see an illustrated or schematic map view.
When it launched, Pokémon Go was applauded for getting people out of their bedrooms and off their sofas, and walking or cycling in the real world. But the game has also had its fair share of issues, including causing thousands of road accidents