Google Maps is fixing Street View

Chris Burns - Nov 10, 2017
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Google Maps is fixing Street View

The newest version of Google Maps Street View will have a much more complete view of this planet. Or at least the parts the company’s driven to or hiked to or swam through so far. Street View panoramas, specifically, are all about to look a whole lot better for everyone – and that’s not even the best part. The best part is – nobody has to go back out and take all of those photos again. Google’s fixing everything with computer algorithms!

Some of the most amazing things Google’s done in recent memory – in my opinion – have mostly to do with computer algorithms made for imaging. The camera in the Google Pixel, the never-ending magic within Google Photos, Google’s Photoscan, and now the fixing of Google Maps Street View imagery. All of this comes thanks to algorithms made by Google to improve the images and the indexing of the images we use every day.

Google’s latest trick is to significantly improve the imagery in the Google Street View Panoramas they’ve already collected. Google Research and Mike Krainin, Software Engineer and Ce Liu, Research Scientist, Machine Perception at Google spoke up this week on their work.

“In order to provide more seamless Street View images, we’ve developed a new algorithm based on optical flow to help solve these challenges,” said Krainin. “The idea is to subtly warp each input image such that the image content lines up within regions of overlap.”

Much like what Google did with Photoscan, more than one iteration of the same subject matter is used to create an ideal end product. In this case, that means a computer analyzation of all overlapping photos captured by the Google Street View camera sphere. Points that correspond with one-another are used to create an end product that makes sense.

Images that align well create one large panorama that’s sensible to the human eye. Optical Flow is one of two elements Google is focusing on for this project – the other is “Global Optimization.” Simple alignment of each individual instance of a broken image do not a perfect final make – an overall re-calibration of each image is also necessary.

According to Google, this new algorithm “was recently added to the Street View stitching pipeline.” Not every single image is optimized just yet – it is “now being used to restitch existing panoramas on an ongoing basis.” Looking good!


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