Google's Street View Vehicles Get A Substantial Upgrade

Google's Street View project is about to get much more interesting and much more helpful thanks to more detailed images and improvements to the algorithms that examine those. The algorithms will be working to index real-world location in a way that much more closely resembles how the search giant indexes websites, with the hope of being able to provide more contextually relevant answers to some of the more difficult questions that Google Maps and Street View users ask. More specifically, the team behind the project - led by the VP of the company's Maps division, Jen Fitzpatrick - wants to be able to give accurate responses to questions that would ordinarily only be answerable by another human. For example, Fitzpatrick provides the question, "What’s the name of the pink store next to the church on the corner?" Google would also like to be able to get more information about business hours, what kind of business a store actually is, and more, without needing much by way of customer feedback. Instead, to answer questions like that one and others, Google needs its much more detailed imagery for its A.I. algorithms to analyze.

To that end, the camera system in the company's Street View cars is getting a major upgrade - its first in 8 years. The new system itself was built with the help of Steve Silverman - a man who helped place cameras on Mars - and has some distinct advantages over that older system. For starters, the new system cuts the overall number of cameras in the 360-degree unit down to only seven from the previous fifteen. However, those cameras are now fitted with 20-megapixel sensors and more advanced software, limiting the blurring and stitching often seen with the previous setup. Those sit atop a stand in the center of the Street View vehicle with a much smaller overall footprint than the previous camera system. Below that are two outward facing full HD cameras, which will take still shots of individual businesses to glean more information than ever before. The entire rig is also fitted with a Lidar system to accurately position the vehicle, which should also cut back on the above-mentioned problems experienced with the last iteration of Street View camera rigs

Efforts with the original Street View part of Google's project to gather and publicize mapping data began back in 2006 - with over 80 billion photos taken across thousands of world locations, in over 85 countries, since it began. So, although mapping with the system has already started, there's no telling when the company will finally get all of its mapped locations updated with new imagery, information, and A.I.-bolstered results. Considering that the company still has a lot of unexplored territories to map out, this is a project that will probably take quite some time to complete. That's even more likely given that the new technology will be especially useful in new areas the company hopes to add to its databases.

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