It’s hard to tell which way the knife will cut on the latest and most unexpected attention currently being devoted to Apple’s (AAPL) Maps program after ardent believers in the existence of Scotland’s Loch Ness monster claim to have sighted the fabled aquatic beast using the application.
The last time we heard about Apple Maps was 2012, in the wake of its disastrous roll-out. Apple was trying to de-Google (GOOG) it’s mobile platform but apparently did not anticipate how tall an order this would be, at least with regard to the task of supplanting Google’s much acclaimed mapping application.
This may also have something to do with the fact that we are only hearing about the discovery of the diminutively-named “Nessie” almost a year after it was made. Deep sea biologist and unabashed “backyard farm advocate” Andrew Thaler over at the Southern Fried Science blog discredited the supposed evidence of the mythological creature’s existence rather convincingly, doing so by means of a simple, handy intro to satellite mapping technology.
Basically, for those of us who were either only partially or just completely unaware, what the average person sees when looking at images derived from satellite photography is most often a composite, a pastiche of multiple images, stitched together from a given satellite’s orbital path.
As it turns out, the 2005 image of the alleged leviathan turns up only on Apple’s mapping program and not on any other such program (including Google’s). Apple doesn’t own its own satellites, and has to purchase images from a third-party. Also, as it turns out, when boats are photographed from outer space with such satellites, it is common for them to be washed out, as it were, in the stitchwork. This is why it is common to see “ghost” boats, where the wake is far more visible than the boat itself. It just so happens that this boat, apparently a 20-footer that could actually be the “Jacobite Queen,” was lost in its own wake due to the low resolution of the original image that was taken of it.
As Thaler explains in his blog post, “Apple doesn’t have it’s own imaging satellites. The fact that the image only shows up in Apple Maps, not Google, is due to Apple either using a slightly different image set to stitch together a picture of the loch or has a less robust algorithm for dealing with artifacts.”
In any event, there’s a lot of well-merited skepticism here. Also, a potentially new data-set proving the inferiority of Apple’s ill-fated mapping software from a brand new and admittedly quite novel angle.
For all that, it won’t likely matter very much, since it’s been well over a year since anyone has expected anything much from Apple Maps. Indeed, the company’s shares were up 1.25 percent in midday trading to $531.57 a piece.
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