One of the most useful features in smartphones is the GPS sensors now available in even low-end devices. Being able to navigate through a city with voice guided navigation really upgrades the experience of carrying the printed maps of yore. It also lets users find the location of their phones in case they get lost. As accurate as the GPS sensors are getting, there are a few times when you can miss an exit or simply realize that the places seen on the screen are not exactly located where they are supposed to.
A few days ago, it was reported that Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin are developing a system that could be more than 100 times more precise than the technology available today in mobile devices, we're talking about centimeter precision here! That kind of technology is currently available in systems used in geology, surveying and mapping, but the antennas used in this kind of positioning systems are too large and too expensive to be used in mobile devices. The research consists in creating a software-defined GPS receiver that uses the antennas included in current phones and tablets and improve dramatically their accuracy. The system can even recognize when users tilt or turn their heads with a precision of less than a degree. At this point, the receiver operates on the outside of the devices and Samsung is involved to create a snap-on accessory for it, but the idea is that the receiver will be integrated in future devices.
As for the use of such a highly accurate positioning system, the researchers mention that drones could deliver packages to a very precise location, the technology could be used in cars to anticipate a collision and perhaps it could be used in the self-driving cars that are being developed. Most notably, the system could improve VR headsets, people could actually rely on going out with those and see a virtual map of what surrounds them or even play games with other players moving and running and interacting with the virtual objects around them. Samsung, being invested in this kind of headsets is actually providing funds to this research, but it is unknown how will the company use it for commercial products.