Smartphones equipped with GPS and mobile internet access to services like Google Maps certainly make life easier when it comes to navigating around new places, but the next generation of digital mapping technology makes current sat-nav software look like little more than crude graphics combined with blurry photos.

C3 Technologies recently demonstrated its 3D city mapping software that’s based on technology originally developed by Swedish aerospace company SAAB for missile targeting.

It uses aerial photos taken from a plane (much like the low-level ‘satellite’ images available in Google Maps and Microsoft Bing), but rather than present them as flat images, C3 Technologies’ software is able to convert them into three-dimensional projections.

The resulting maps can be rotated and viewed from any angle and, with a resolution of 15cm or less, they’re extremely detailed — much more so than the images used for Google Street View, for example.

The maps are much more impressive to see than to read about, so here’s a video that the technology in action:

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C3 Technologies doesn’t have anything commercially available yet and its web site mysteriously disappeared earlier this year after rumours of the company being acquired.

The current suspicion is that C3 Technologies was bought by Apple, which, if true, might mean that we’ll be seeing this sot of ultra-realistic mapping software in a future iPhone and iPad.

[via Core77]