A variety of augmented reality (AR) providers use GPS to pinpoint location data, detect surfaces on which AR characters like dinosaurs can roam, or have some cityscape knowledge from ground-level scanning by human crews.
But today, Milpitas, California-based computer vision startup Sturfee has emerged from four years in stealth mode to release its Visual Positioning Service (VPS). It utilizes satellite and ground-level imagery to build and provide real-time 3D AR mapping of cities that understand the shape and sizes of nearby buildings and other objects in the cityscape.
As a result of this mapping, it can, for instance, immediately place AR “billboards” on nearby buildings or let AR-generated creatures climb the nearest skyscraper.
Other possible applications include 3D arrows for directions to destinations, information overlays or voice-overs that depend on where a device is looking, or graphical overlays that alert Uber customers of which approaching vehicle on the street is for them.
Sturfee’s AR mapping is generated differently than other providers, CEO Anil Cheriyadat told ClickZ. It uses 10 to 15 satellite photos of a given cityscape, taken in slightly different positions over several passes, and it combines those with street level images taken by its crews.
Machine learning and other technology generate a 3D cityscape by combining these images and related data. To date, Cheriyadat said, his company has created such 3D maps for 15 cities on three continents, including San Francisco, Boston, Washington D.C., Manhattan, San Jose, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai and Dubai.
Sturfee said it has received orders to integrate the mapping with smartphones, wearables and 5G services, although Cheriyadat added that non-disclosures prevented naming these customers. But he did note that Sturfee has signed a multi-year licensing agreement with the second largest cellular service provider in Japan, KDDI, bringing the VPS platform to all major metro areas in that country.
Currently, Cheriyadat said, a user needs to download a compatible AR app to use the VPS landscape. He also added that the company is looking at web-based AR that might require only a mobile browser.