While Google is busy mapping out the exterior world, where all our streets and buildings are, there hasn't been much work on the interior part of the whole thing. But, considering the amount of security issues that may be red flagged in any kind of effort, it will probably be a few years before something like this portable laser backpack, which is used to create 3D maps of internal spaces, sees the light of day in the private market. But, that doesn't mean the Air Force can't get their hands on it.
The United States Air Force has just announced that a team of researchers based out of the University of California in Berkeley have created a laser backpack, which is about as portable as you might imagine. It's still bulky, sure, but at least it won't crush you. At least one of the researchers, a man named Avideh Zakhor, has been doing work of rapid generation of information pertaining to 3D models for quite some time, and has even done work on Google Earth's Cities in 3D Program, so he knows what he's doing. And, while Google may wish they could use something like this to map the internals of a restaurant somewhere, we don't really see that happening any time soon.
Yet, as we mentioned above, the Air Force is an entirely different story. They want to get their hands on this technology, apparently, to map out battlefield locations. The branch of the military believes that Air Force personnel would be able to use the information gathered to prepare for missions better.
The backpack itself utilizes all sorts of high-tech goodies. There are four cameras that record up, down, and on both sides of the wearer of the backpack at all times. The entire system is based on the Hokuyo scanning laser rangefinders. And then the whole thing gets figured out by a sensor fusion algorithm that was designed by Zakhor and other researchers. The cameras and algorithms work in conjunction to rapidly decipher the environment, and then showcase it in a photo-realistic 3D model at a later date. The system doesn't need GPS, either.
Zakhor believes that every location on the planet, both interior and exterior, will be eventually mapped. He believes, honestly, that before you go anywhere in the future, you'll be able to bring it up online and take a look, no matter the location. A pretty hefty goal, we imagine, but as the technology gets better and we have better access, it may be possible.