Prof. Dr. Franz Leberl
Head, Institute of Computer Graphics and Vision
Graz University of Technology, Austria
Do you think the 3D viewing of data, its public accessibility and its utility is going to be a reality in the near future?
The concept of neogeography believes that data is not the responsibility of the expert but of the user. The local user becomes the expert. The Internet makes it possible to implement the neo-geo approach. The infrastructure needed to do that has to come about, as in Google’s case we have Sketch up, where user has the facility to add data. In Microsoft’s case, this concept is also to come where you edit and contribute to the basic infrastructure and Photosynth is going to play a role there. Immediately I don’t see Photosynth to be tightly integrated with Virtual Earth but in the long run, we may have this. For now, it is to enable creating a photo album of a site in a 3D kind of environment. The technology used in Photosynth is one that is in UltraMap AD.
The source of it is the development that Microsoft has purchased from a group of Princeton University and the system is called C Dragon. C Dragon to Dragonfly, is a smooth transition from resolution to resolution levels with very large set of data. A large dataset of around 1.5 terra bytes can be put. We can bring them all on one monitor and can zoom in to any feature.
Where do you see the application heading?
I mentioned the way data is coming. Making money out of it begins with search. It is this major phenomenon that Google adopted and so have other companies. Money is there in advertising. Apart from that if you are a real estate company, then you are not only doing advertising; you have a database of information available for customers The second is navigation – by cell phone, mobile telephony, etc. So you navigate while you move or prepare for a trip. This market is understood and this is going to be in 3D and real-time. The third area is games. This market is growing and has become a dynamic industry; games that depict the real through fictitious world.
Then you have a whole concept of “Internet of Things”. There is now RFID chips fitted to all kinds of objects like furniture, glasses and wallets. We want to know where they are and in order to know where they are, we need to have models in our human environment so that we know that the glasses are on the table in the dining room. So we need to model your dining room or your house. There you have Photosynth coming to use. You may embed to this the coordinate system. So your house is to be there in a city and your city is to be there in the country. This is what the Internet of things is all about.
How do you see the growth of technology with Virtual Earth approach? How will the privacy issues be taken care of?
In the Virtual Earth approach, where I enumerated multiple areas of applications, none of them is government ownership oriented. I am assuming that there is an authority that worries on correctness of what is available online. But at the same time, I think that the concepts on how the contributions by the public will be integrated are not very well developed yet.
As far as issues of privacy are concerned, though I am not an authority on this, the way to respond to this is that you have to remove out the people you photograph in the car with licence plate. Even the cars too can be removed. So obviously when you do a city model, you just put indicative images/magazines/2008/dec/model people and remove the originals. The same can be done when vegetation is questioned because of its changing nature. The VE approach unlocks or provokes the computational thinking of an individual. People have started recognising the fourth ‘R’ (other than three viz., Reading, Writing and Arithmetic), which is ‘Computational Thinking’, and technologies are exploiting that.