In a report by CNBC, Apple is hiring a number of new employees.  Specifically, the company is looking to add scores of mapping experts and engineers.  In the report it says:

More than 70 job listings went live in the past month on the company’s site relating to its maps team, or requiring skills around things like: “geospatial information services,” “navigational aids” and “fleet management.”

Even though there has been improvement over time, Apple Maps continues to suffer from a less-than-stellar reputation from its 2012 launch.  The new hires will be supporting initatives around augmented reality and “autonomous systems.”

Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple had thisi to say about both topics during this week’s earnings call.

On augmented reality: 

One of the most exciting and most promising announcements from WWDC was the introduction of ARKit, a new set of tools for developers to create augmented reality apps. It’s still early in the beta period, but it’s clear that ARKit has captured the imagination of our developer community . . .

We believe AR has broad mainstream applicability across education, entertainment, interactive gaming, enterprise, and categories we probably haven’t even thought of. With hundreds of millions of people actively using iPhone and iPad today, iOS will become the world’s biggest augmented reality platform as soon as iOS 11 ships.

On autonomous systems: 

In terms of autonomous systems, what we’ve said is that we are very focused on autonomous systems from a core technology point of view. We do have a large project going and are making a big investment in this. From our point of view, autonomy is the mother of all AI projects. And the autonomous systems can be used in a variety of ways and a vehicle is only one. But there are many different areas of it and I don’t want to go any further with that.

There is a requirement of top-tier mapping and navigation capability for autonomous vehicles, which shouldn’t surprise anybody.  It wouldn’t look very good for them if they got directions wrong or turned at the wrong time or direction.  It would be a liability or tragedy.    Augmented reality layers imagery or virtual objects  on top of the physical world, and seen through a smartphone camera lens or other hardware device.

Microsoft, Facebook and Google have all announced augmented reality initiatives, with Google and Microsoft pushing out products already.

When iOS 11 has been given a general release date later this fall, it’ll be interesting to see if Cook’s prediction comes true about the mainstreaming of augmented reality.  If Apple ends up hiring these professionals in order to support augmented reality and “autonomous systems,” Apple Maps should end up being better in the end.

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