Apple Augmented Reality Improved with Acquisition of Project Tango Collaborator Flyby Media

What does this acquisition of Flyby Media mean for Apple’s Efforts in developing Augmented Reality Devices and Media?

I noticed this headline in the news this morning: Apple patent details visual-based AR navigation, confirms Flyby Media acquisition.

The article tells us that augmented reality can be accomplished by using information from a phone such as image data from a camera, and sensor data from devices such as a gyroscope and an accelerometer, and that information can be augmented by marrying images of reality with computer generated imagery.

I checked out the patent referred to in the article, and it had me wondering what role Flyby Media played in Google’s Project Tango, which we are told that they used in the Apple Insider article.

The patent linked to in that news story is in Apple’s name, but the inventors are originally from Flyby Media. The patent is:

Visual-based inertial navigation

Inventors: Alex Flint, Oleg Naroditsky, Christopher P. Broaddus, Andriy Grygorenko, Stergios Roumeliotis, and Oriel Bergig

Assigned to: Apple Inc.

Regents of the University of Minnesota

US Patent 9,424,647

Granted August 23, 2016

Filed: August 12, 2014


A method includes: receiving sensor measurements from a pre-processing module, in which the sensor measurements include image data and inertial data for a device; transferring, using a processor, information derived from the sensor measurements, from a first set of variables associated with a first window of time to a second set of variables associated with a second window of time, in which the first and second windows consecutively overlap in time; and outputting, to a post-processing module, a state of the device based on the transferred information.

An image from the patent shows how indoor mapping might be improved by the collection of information using imagery from Flyby Media:

Indoor Mapping
Improved Indoor Mapping

The Apple Insider article points to this earlier article from them that describes other acquisitions of companies working in Augmented Reality: Rumor: Apple has ‘hundreds of staff’ working on virtual & augmented reality projects

Two of the inventors listed on this patent supposedly now work at Apple, Naroditsky and Grygorenko,and one, Roumeliotis, is a professor at the University of Minnesota.

I was curious as to what other patents Flyby Media might have, and the last sentence in the abstract from the first one, about augmented reality games was interesting.

Systems and methods for efficient 3D tracking of weakly textured planar surfaces for augmented reality applications

Inventors: Christopher Broaddus, Andriy Grygorenko, Netanel Hagbi, and Oriel Y. Bergig;

Assignee: Flyby Media, Inc.

US Patent 9,147,251

Granted: September 29, 2015

Filed: August 3, 2012


The present system provides an on the fly simple to complex 6DOF registration approach using the direct method. On the fly means it does not require training time, a user points a phone/camera to a planar surface and can start tracking it instantly. Simple to complex means the system performs registration in multiple levels of complexity from 2DOF to 6DOF. By increasing the complexity model the system enables more surfaces to be tracked and for surfaces that are tracked the system can avoid local minima solution providing a more robust and accurate 6DOF tracking. Even surfaces that are very weak in features can be tracked in 6DOF and virtual content can be registered to them. The system enables playing Augmented Reality games on low-end devices such as mobile phones on almost any surface in the real world.

Systems and methods for tracking natural planar shapes for augmented reality applications

Inventors: Netanel Hagbi, Oriel Y. Bergig, and Jihad A. Elsana

Assigned to: Flyby Media, Inc.

US Patent 8,644,551

Granted: February 4, 2014

Filed: October 15, 2010


The present disclosure relates to systems and methods for tracking planar shapes for augmented-reality (AR) applications. Systems for real-time recognition and camera six degrees of freedom pose-estimation from planar shapes are disclosed. Recognizable shapes can be augmented with 3D content. Recognizable shapes can be in form of a predefined library being updated online using a network. Shapes can be added to the library when the user points to a shape and asks the system to start recognizing it. The systems perform shape recognition by analyzing contour structures and generating projective invariant signatures. Image features are further extracted for pose estimation and tracking. Sample points are matched by evolving an active contour in real time.

It’s interesting seeing how Apple is advancing in Augmented Reality Technology by acquisitions of technology and hiring employees from companies such as Flyby Media. Will Apple be focusing upon games such as Pokemon Go, or do they have other ideas in mind, like I alluded to in this post on a new Apple patent on Augmented Reality Displays from them: Might We Soon See Apple Augmented Reality?. We see Apple is working upon building devices that can display augmented reality, and they are acquiring expertise and technology that assists in using augmented reality in applications such as indoor mapping.

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