: A “virtual
earth” made from millions and millions of images and videos
easily uploaded by anyone. These images are merged into true 3D,
allowing seamless navigation. These images are tagged and can be
filtered. One can walk down the Champs Elysee on a spring morning,
or see Times Square in 1900 (via historical photos), or wander around
a crowded Death Valley with every person in the database visible
at the same time.
In an extreme form, this virtual earth can be overlaid on top of
actual scenes in real time, perfectly registered, using augmented
: “Traditional” moviemaps like Aspen
offer photo-realistic virtual
travel by building custom camera systems and exhaustively filming
a place. This is still a good idea, but two major changes have occurred
since the halcyon
of filming the streets of Aspen.
First, the power of the Web is in its numbers, and the most powerful
applications, from Flickr
in general, are built and refined little by little by
very large numbers of participants.
Second, in a post-9-1-1 world, it’s not clear that a fleet
of corporate or government -backed camera cars sweeping a city will
be welcome by the community. As summarized by the late geographer
“Maps are power. You either will map or you will be mapped.”
In the late 1990s, the MIT Media Lab initiated what they called
the “WorldWide MovieMap” (was www.wwmm.org). The idea
was for the world community, particularly amateurs, to photograph
the world as they saw it and to upload the images to an enormous
database. The dream was to somehow merge these images to make them
contiguously navigable. The project was a still-born.
Today maps are red hot, led by Google
. “State of the art” at the moment is high-resolution
aerial photographic data mapped onto a topological model with the
addition of blank, “shoebox” like representations of
known buildings in several urban areas. The obvious next step is
to add photograph texture, and perhaps more shape, to these shoeboxes.
These will almost certainly be done as a centralized endeavor.
The collective alternative is to allow anyone to upload geographically
anchored images. Several such systems currently exist (e.g., Mappr
But 2D images remain 2D in computer 3-space.
: The trick will be to merge 2D images from arbitrary
and numerous sources into something 3D (or 3D-like) allowing navigability,
and where the "sense of place-ness" remains. My past work
in this area can be found here
I have some specific ideas on how to approach this problem.
(last updated 27 March 2006)
Apr 08: "Viewfinder: How to Seamlessly 'Flickrize' Google Earth"
report and video are now online.
Jan 08: "Seamless Image Integration Into 3D Models" patent app is now online
7 August 2007: Recipient, Google Research
Award for "Collective Photo Mapping" (details forthcoming).
25 June 2007: Patent filed for “a
method and system for seamlessly integrating arbitrary images into
pre-existing 3D models” via USC
Stevens Institute for Innovation.
14 July 2006: New work on "How
to seamlessly 'Flickrize' 'Google Earth'
: a novel approach to
seamlessly integrate arbitrary images into pre-existing 3D models".
back to big