Commoditization of Car-Mounted Immersive Imagery

September 24, 2009
Posted by Mok Oh in .

PixKorea CarPixKorea Car. They use digital SLRs with fisheye lenses. The mechanical rig can change heights. Cool.

Sorry it’s been a while since my last post.  I’ve been busy with family, work, my dog ate my home work, had to wash my hair…

I was invited to give a talk at a conference in Seoul, Korea called National Spatial Data Infrastructure Expo 2009 (Sep. 9-11).  I spoke about “How to Paint the World,” which stressed on the importance of a framework for capturing, processing, storing and distributing photorealistic, immersive, interactive content of our world for various applications (e.g. local search).  Ok, that sounded fancier than it actually was (or perhaps more boring than it was?).

But that isn’t the gist of this blog.  I wanted to write about how pleasantly surprised I was to see so many street-level, car-mounted camera aquisition systems in the show floor of the expo.  I think I saw at least 5 companies doing that when I walked around half the show floor, with various configs and cameras.

Car-mounted ground-level immersive imageryThis car uses Point Grey’s Lady Bug (red on top) as well as digital SLRs on the bottom. Not exactly sure why.

IMG_1727This car uses Point Grey’s Lady Bug and two GPS’s to determine orientation. When asked how well that worked, the answer was ambiguous.

In general, I am seeing a bunch of companies being formed that have a car-mounted system for street-level panoramic acquisition around the world.  I’m glad to see this, since it feels like another step towards this content type being useful and in demand.  But ultimately, street content will be commoditized (even before it can be monetized — but that’s whole other topic).

So, what does this mean?  Well, it means the consumers win in the long run.  It also means that the competition will hopefully improve the image quality of this exterior content (really lead by Google Street View).  Further differentiation and innovation needed to win in the competitive market will push the innovative minds to do a lot more than just display panoramas — enabling mashups, UGCs, improving extensibility and maintainability, encoding a whole lot more geo info, getting INTERIORS (a-hem!) etc. will be necessary for survival.  As I said, this should all be good for the consumers, if it pans out this way.  Yay.

It’s still a bit early to tell who, how, what will win or lose.  And somewhat surprisingly (to a US-centric person), Google is not winning else where around the world.  Yay.

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