Tim Bradshaw at the Financial Times: “When technology transformed the camera, the shift from film to digital sensors was just the beginning. As standalone cameras were absorbed into our phones, they gained software smarts, enabling them not only to capture light but also to understand the contents of a photo and even recognise people in it.
A similar transformation is now starting to happen to maps — and it too is powered by those advances in camera technology. In the next 20 years, our collective understanding of a “map” will be unrecognisable from the familiar grid of roads and places that has endured even as the A-Z street atlas has been supplanted by Google Maps.
Before long, countless objects and places will be captured and recreated in 3D digital models that we can view through our phones or even, at some stage, on headsets. This digital world might be populated by our avatars, turned into a playing field for new kinds of games or used to discover routes, buildings and services around us.
Nobody seems sure yet what the killer app for this “digital twin” of Planet Earth might be, but that hasn’t stopped Silicon Valley from racing to build it anyway. Facebook, Apple, Google and Microsoft, as well as the developers of Snapchat and Pokémon Go, are all hoping to bring this “mirrorworld” to life, as a precursor to the augmented-reality (AR) glasses that many in tech see as the next big thing.
To place virtual objects in our world, our devices need to know the textures and contours of their surroundings, which GPS cannot see. But instead of sending out cars with protruding cameras to scan the world, as Google did to build Street View over the past decade and a half, these maps will be plotted by hundreds of millions of users like you and me. The question is whether we even realise that we have been dragooned into Silicon Valley’s army of cartographers. They cannot do it without us.
This month, Google said it would ask Maps users to upload photos to Street View using their smartphones for the first time. Only handsets running its AR software can contribute. As Michael Abrash, chief scientist at Facebook’s Oculus headset unit, recently told Fast Company magazine: “Crowdsourcing has to be the primary way that this works. There is no other way to scale.”…(More)”.