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Friday, May 11, 2012, 11:36 am PT (02:36 pm ET)

Apple's new 3D Maps in iOS 6 will ditch Google, 'blow your head off'

Apple is expected to revamp its Maps application in the next major update to its iOS mobile operating system, moving away from the Google Maps service to provide its own solution that will reportedly feature photorealistic 3D mapping technology.

Citing anonymous sources familiar with the new version of Maps, John Paczkowski of All Things D reported on Friday that the new feature is expected to be unveiled at Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference, which will be held June 11 through 15 in San Francisco, Calif. The new Maps are currently planned to be shown off in a keynote that will kick off the event, the report said.

"Sources describe the new Maps app as a forthcoming tent-pole feature of iOS that will, in the words of one, 'blow your head off,'" Paczkowski wrote. "I’m not quite sure what that means, and the source in question declined to elaborate, but it's likely a reference to the photorealistic 3-D mapping tech Apple acquired when it purchased C3 Technologies."

Apple's proprietary mapping solution has been a long time in the making. The company's plans were first signaled in 2009, when it purchased Placebase, a competitor to Google Maps.

Then, in 2010, Apple bought Poly9, another mapping company, and began using its own location databases for the Maps application with the launch of iOS 3.2 for the first-generation iPad. Another key acquisition came in 2011, when Apple bought C3 Technologies, a Sweden-based 3D mapping company.


In 2010, a set of Apple patent applications showed that the company was looking into using future iPhones to generate 3D models of an object or place.Another application filed last August entitled "Augmented Reality Maps" described an invention that would overlay data such as directions or street names in real time on top of live video. Apple has also filed for a "Schematic Maps" patent where a mapping application would dynamically emphasize or exaggerate details such as roads or landmarks.

Traffic could also play a key role in Apple's new Maps application for iOS 6. The company publicly announced last April that it was "collecting anonymous traffic data to build a crowd-sourced traffic database."

In a series of answers provided to U.S. Congress as part of an iOS-related location database controversy last year, Apple said its "improved traffic service" would launch in "the next couple of years." The company declined to share further details.