Finland: Nokia and its mapping division Navteq are developing a rival to Google’s Street View, one that offers full three-dimensional computer models of villages, towns and cities, and could one day allow those urban centres to form the backdrop to realistic computer games.
Nokia’s proposed service relies on two technologies: one to construct a virtual cityscape, the other to clothe it in images taken from life. The 3D models that make up virtual streets and buildings are built with data from Navteq’s nascent Journey View system, a dataset of mapping measurements made by the laser-radar technique known as LiDAR. These models are then decorated by City Scene, software written by Mattila’s group that projects and accurately stitches photographs onto the 3D cityscape.
“Street View has transformed online mapping by providing panoramic views from many of the world’s streets. But although it nods towards the third dimension, Street View falls short of a true 3D experience,” said Ville-Veikko Mattila at the Nokia Research Centre in Tampere, Finland.
Street View presents the viewer with a series of 2D panoramic photos. “What we’re developing is a full 3D rendering of our locations and environments. That’s a big difference,” said Mattila.
The most noticeable way in which Nokia’s service will differ from Google’s is that users will be able to move smoothly through urban environments, almost as if they were in a photorealistic driving game. The accurate 3D rendering of buildings in the new system will make it easy to generate a set of 3D coordinates for a particular building, or even a particular floor in an office building occupied by a business – information that could help companies augment the virtual world with location-specific adverts, said Nokia.
Will Google follow?
Google also acquired LiDAR data. The information is used in Google Maps Mobile to correct the exaggerated angles between buildings when a Street View panoramic photo is rendered on a small screen. However, the search giant declined to comment when asked if it, too, plans to use its LiDAR data to construct 3D models of towns and cities. Nevertheless, Google says it welcomes Nokia’s move into 3D mapping. “The more products and services that exist, the greater the rate of innovation, which ultimately benefits consumers and provides them with even greater choice,” a Google spokesperson said.
Source: New Scientist