Apple has been granted a patent that could finally offer an answer to Google Maps’ Street View.

The patent describes using an electronic device — say, an iPhone — to navigate a three-dimensional model of an area or object. Motion sensors in the device will track movement and relay changes in perspective to the 3D representation on the screen. The patent also details how to record an object or environment: The device tracks images or video, records any movement that was made, and processes both sets of information to create a 3D model. You can check out the full patent at the USPTO’s site.

The most obvious use for such a patent would be an answer to Google Maps. Apple Maps has been a sore subject for the company, with a troublesome launch and ultimate failure to unseat Google on Apple’s own platform. While the iOS Maps app can zoom in on your current location, the satellite view it offers is no match for Google’s immersive Street View functionality. The tech described in this patent could help close that gap, offering iOS users a potentially comparable experience from Apple’s own apps.

Of course, user-submitted Street View-like tours will be no match for Google’s expansive efforts, which offer a glimpse of streets, railways near and far, worlds under the sea, and unprotected Wi-Fi networks (whoops). And Google has technically beaten Apple to the punch, letting anyone with enough patience (or an Android phone) roll their own Street View tours.

But the implementation described in this patent wouldn’t be limited to gadding about town. The patent describes displaying information about objects that could be manipulated on your phone: Capture a few shots of that chintzy vase you’re trying to get rid of,and someone will be able to manipulate a 3D model of it on their phone. Better still, the patent describes playing a video game that’s viewed through your phone’s display, superimposing whatever the game’s designers would like on your screen. This alone would easily pique my interest in the slew of location-based alternate reality games that are already prevalent on mobile devices.

VentureBeat's mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative enterprise technology and transact. Discover our Briefings.