Cars need a precise digital copy of our world, if we are going to create accurate augmented reality applications or allow robots to deliver food. If you believe the technological optimists, in 10 years there will be self-driving cars, drones will deliver our parcels, and robotic products. And one day our cities will be decorated with augmented reality that looks exactly like the street on which it overlaps.
Create a three-dimensional mirror image of the world
Regardless, it will happen sooner or later, one piece of the puzzle will be crucial: a high-precision technology to determine location. GPS and shimmering blue dot in maps application for smartphones very convenient for the person who travels to an unfamiliar city, but it is not suitable for cars. They will need to know where everything is accurate to the centimeter.
London startup Scape believes that will be able to provide. According to one of the founders of Edward Miller, service visual positioning of the company using GPS and images from multiple cameras to pinpoint where you are literally two or three seconds. He has collected more than two billion images of the street and made a precise 3D map of more than 100 cities worldwide, including London, San Francisco, Paris, Moscow and Tokyo. Some data were collected by staff members who went on the cities with cameras attached to the bikes, but the Scape platform can process images from any source.
When using algorithms Scape extract “points of interest” (e.g. street signs, shop Windows or lamp posts) from any image to compare it to the billions that already exist in the database. The system then uses triangulation to determine the angle and distance from which the observed object, and returns it to the exact location of the end user. This accuracy will tie augmented reality to the world better than is possible using GPS or other technologies that will make it much more impressive and versatile.
Scape is a transition to the next level, Miller says. We are talking about extending this feature to the size of an entire living city.
Already there are many applications of augmented reality, mainly in the world of entertainment: just a few days ago Snapchat celebrated the launch of the new season of “Game of thrones”, releasing virtual dragons in new York. But many commercial companies also want to see the products of augmented reality was locked in a certain place for clients as they pass through the city. Relying on GPS is wrong, because everything works not as good as I would like.
“Using existing technology positioning, you can move around the city with precision to several meters. That’s fine, but for augmented reality you need a completely different level of accuracy”, says Christian mikolajczyk, an expert on computer vision at the Imperial University.
Of course, this accuracy would not only AR apps. The task to make machines understand the challenging environment for many companies.
Waymo, for example, equips its vehicles GPS, lidar, cameras and radar sensors to help them autonomously move around. Starship Technologies, which provides shipping services with the help of robots, uses a similar approach. The difference here is the level of precision and that the Scape does so only with the help of cameras, which is much cheaper than lidar and other laser technology. The company’s platform also differs from the others in creating maps that can handle changes in the environment, which is extremely important to create a unified version of the world for people and computers. This is important in order for people to be able to pick-up shipments have drones and robots.
Scape wants to use your location services to become the underlying infrastructure that hosts the driverless cars, robotics and services of augmented reality.
“Our ultimate goal is to map one-to-one covering all,” Miller says. “We strive to be as invisible as GPS is today.”