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Friday, November 10, 2006

VirtualCity brings Street-Level Photography to Maps

If you were impressed by Microsoft's Virtual Earth 3D, you might be even more amazed by VirtualCity, which takes maps to a much finer level. It's a massive project whose goal is to collect street-level photographs of every Canadian city. Right now, Toronto has been completed. Using some rather sophisticated gadgets, these photographs
are collected via mobile communication centers equipped with high-definition video cameras and the latest in global positioning technology. GIS-grade GPS, accelerometers to sense increases and decreases in acceleration, and gyro meters to sense directional changes, all tie into the vehicles’ computer bus to sense each full rotation of the wheels, while custom software compares these readings 10 times per second to create extremely accurate location data regardless of degraded GPS or "urban canyons.”
There are a couple of ways to navigate: you can enter an address, use the viewer, or use the map. Using the viewer, you can "walk" down a street and see photographs of what's there step-by-step. It's sort of like taking a virtual tour of a city. You can also easily bookmark locations to return to later.

The project is very ambitious, and it'll be interesting to see how well it scales.



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