UC Berkeley pursues indoor positioning via smartphone photos

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley are developing a location-fixing method that relies upon images from a mobile device's camera to deduce the device's location and orientation.

Leading the research group is Avideh Zakhor, a UC Berkeley professor of electrical engineering whose Berkeley lab originally developed the technology behind 3D Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Earth.

UC Berkeley 3D backpack

A UC Berkeley research assistant maps a facility wearing a portable 3D modeling system. (Image source: UC Berkeley College of Engineering)

Much as Google's Street View does outside, Zakhor's indoor location-fixing method matches photos taken by a mobile device's camera with a database of panoramic imagery of a building's interior, according to MIT Technology Review. "You can provide that blue dot you see on a mobile map when out-of-doors for interiors," Zakhor told the publication.

Zakhor's group has been developing its camera-based approach to positioning for several years, developing a special backpack to capture indoor images for the database. Her research group also aims to employ Wi-Fi signals collected via the backpack to provide a secondary method of for determining indoor location.

The imaging system has been tested within buildings on the Berkeley campus as well as in a Fremont, Calif., mall, where the researchers matched more than 96 percent of images taken by a smartphone's camera against the database of images. Location fixes for the images registered an error rate of less than a meter from the devices' true location.

Google is also taking a similar approach, announcing in late November that its initial efforts to map global transit locations include 16 international airports, over 50 train and subway stations, and even a cable car station in Hong Kong.

Indoor positioning seems like a natural use for Google Glass, so it probably should not be surprising that Zakhor is planning to test her method on computerized glasses, said MIT Technology Review.

For more:
- see this UC Berkeley webpage
- see this MIT Technology Review article
- see this Google webpage

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