Machines need an exact digital copy of our world,if we're going to create accurate augmented reality applications or let robots deliver food. According to technology optimists, in 10 years there will be self-driving cars everywhere, drones will deliver our packages, and robots will deliver products. And one day our cities will be decorated with augmented reality, which will look exactly like the streets on which it will overlap.
Create a three-dimensional mirror copy of the world
No matter whether it happens sooner orlater, one piece of the puzzle will be crucial: ultra-precise location technology. GPS and a flickering blue dot in map applications for smartphones are very convenient for a person who travels around an unfamiliar city, but is not suitable for cars. They will need to know where everything is up to a centimeter.
London startup scape thinks it canprovide. According to one of the founders of Edward Miller, the company's visual positioning service uses GPS and images from several cameras to determine exactly where you are in literally two or three seconds. He collected more than two billion street images and compiled an accurate 3D map of more than 100 cities around the world, including London, San Francisco, Paris, Moscow and Tokyo. Some data was collected by employees who traveled around cities with cameras attached to bicycles, but the Scape platform can process images from any source.
When used, scape algorithms extract“Points of interest” (for example, street signs, shop windows or lampposts) from any image to compare it with the billions already in the database. The system then uses triangulation to determine the angle and distance from which the object was observed, and returns its exact location to the end user. Such accuracy will tie the augmented reality to the world better than is possible with the help of GPS or other technologies, which will make it much more impressive and universal.
Scape is a move to the next level, Miller says. It is about expanding this opportunity to the size of a whole living city.
There are already some impressive uses.Augmented Reality, mainly in the world of entertainment: just a few days ago, Snapchat celebrated the launch of the new game of thrones season by releasing virtual dragons in New York. But many commercial companies also want augmented reality products to be locked in a certain place for customers as they pass through the city. Relying on GPS will be wrong, because everything does not work as well as we would like.
“Using existing definition technologieslocations can be moved around the city with an accuracy of a few meters. This is normal, but for augmented reality, you need a completely different level of accuracy, ”says Christian Mikolajczyk, an expert on computer vision at Imperial University.
Of course, such accuracy will help not only AR applications. The task of making cars understand environments is difficult for many companies.
Waymo, for example, equips its GPS cars,lidar, cameras and radar sensors to help them navigate autonomously. Starship Technologies, which provides delivery services using robots, uses a similar approach. The difference here is in the level of accuracy and in that Scape does it exclusively with the help of cameras, which are much cheaper than lidar and other laser technologies. The company's platform also differs from others in creating maps that can cope with changes in the environment, which is essential for creating a unified version of the world for people and computers. This is important so that people can pick up packages from drones and robots.
Scape wants to use its location services to become the basic infrastructure on which driverless cars, robotics and augmented reality services are located.
“Our ultimate goal is a one-to-one card that covers everything,” says Miller. “We strive to be as invisible as GPS today.”
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