Apple Tapping into Augmented Reality to Help Customers Find Drivers in Ride-Sharing Apps
Apple is increasingly tapping into augmented reality for various applications. Its latest foray is into the ride-hailing services where the company is integrating AR into cab-hailing process which will make it easier for customers and drivers to find one another. The tech giant has just published patent with the US Patent and Trademark Office that describes its plan to create an AR app that will facilitate the identification of ride-share vehicles arriving at a pick-up location.
There has been a fast rise in the adoption of ride-hailing apps such as Uber. They are now a feature in almost every major global city. With so many ride-share cars available per square kilometer in busy cities, one of the biggest problems faced by both customers and drivers is ease of identification of one another. Commonly,customers find themselves entering the wrong car when there are lots of parked cars or lots of traffic which causes a great deal of inconvenience for the customer and also results in extra expenses. This usually occurs when several cars are at a single pick-up point simultaneously, a common occurrence in big cities. Without confirming whether they are entering the right car, many customers will simply hop in only to discover later along the way that they have entered the wrong car.
For precision,some of the ride-sharing apps are integrated with maps that indicate the relative location of the driver and the passenger using the GPS coordinates. These are indicated using a small dot or pin on the map that each of the party looks at to tell the exact location of either party. In Uber, this works perfectly if you are the only one at the pick-up point. But the moving GPS coordinates are less precise in crowded environments where multiple customers are waiting for their ride and many of these rides are arriving almost simultaneously.Additionally, not all passengers are good at reading the maps and figuring the exact location of their drivers.
According to the patent that Apple has filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office, its AR interface will help solve the difficulty of identification of arriving cars by using a combination of visual identifiers and GPS coordinates.
How it Works
Using Apple’s AR app, the user can hold up their iPhone and move it about so that its rear camera can capture more of their surrounding environment and finally display the right vehicle via its on-screen indicator.
The augmented reality app works similarly for drivers in identifying the right customer. Once the system has pinpointed the right customer, they will be displayed on an iPhone screen. It’s a process that takes barely a few minutes but helps in eliminating a lot of the inconvenience that comes with ride-share apps.
For the customer, the app will display details such as the vehicle make, model as well as the color for easy identification. When both parties are in the same location, the augmented reality app will make use of the image data captured by its rear view camera to identify the right vehicle. It will then verify these details against the data that’s already in the system’s database in order to pinpoint the precise vehicle in the vicinity.
After the app has successfully identified the right vehicle, its augmented reality view will create a highlight for the vehicle when it’s spotted by the iPhone camera.This can either be in the form of a circle around the vehicle or an arrow pointing at the vehicle on the road in its AR view. This will allow for very precise spotting.
It works both ways so the driver can also activate the AR features to identify the waiting passenger. The app utilizes a variety of attributes to relay the correct information to the driver. In addition to photographs, the constants such as the height, facial hair or perceived weight could also be used to identify and pinpoint the actual customer even in public places with lots of people.
Facial features may change so the user could feed the app further input such as landmarks or physical appearance that will create additional variables in the system for ease of identification.
Whenever both parties have come within range of each other, the augmented reality app will alert the driver to lift their mobile phone and scan their surrounding environment. If the iPhone device is already in position, then all the driver has to do is automatically activate its scanning mode. The app deploys facial recognition technology and other systems to identify features such as landmarks, clothing as well as various other available variables so as to identify the customer. The image captured is then modified to highlight the most likely target customer. Such an app will deliver pinpoint accuracy as long as it will have the right sets of variables.
The usage may also overlap into other areas beyond just ride-hailing. Other potential applications may include identifying the right bus or train for your commute.
The patent application does not necessarily guarantee that all these concepts will be implemented in the eventual AR app but it’s an indication to the future direction this might eventually take.
Like other tech giants, Apple is making great investments in augmented reality technologies. Some of the products it has so far rolled out include developing the ARKit that simplifies the process through which AR developers can add content to their apps. Other investments have included acquiring Akona Holographics, the AR headset lens manufacturer. The company has also made some recent high profile AR hirings.