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Blue Dasher seeks customers for street-level photographs

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CTIA '08 On Tuesday Blue Dasher announced it had accumulated complete street-level photography of every road in San Francisco, South Florida and Las Vegas. Today we sat down with the company in CTIA, who told us why.

The technology that Miami-based Blue Dasher uses is impressive enough: its cars, complete with little periscope sticking out of the sun roof, drive around at the speed of the surrounding traffic while five cameras take four pictures a second. The resulting images, including one pointing upwards, are stitched together into navigable spheres that show everything around the vehicle.

But does the world need more street-level pictures to accompany mapping applications? "Absolutely!" Blue Dasher founder Michael Reidbord told us. "Look around at all the companies selling navigation systems. They all want to be able to show people the intersection they're approaching, and we can provide that".

We're not convinced that being able to see a photograph of the approaching junction will make it easier to navigate: it could give the driver confidence they're in the right place, but it could equally well distract them depending on what was happening when the Blue Dasher car passed by.

"Real estate companies are desperate for this," Reidbord assured us, so they can virtually explore areas, showing potential buyers what their route to work might look like, or just the nearest shops.

That makes some sense, but it seems like using a technological sledgehammer to crack a nut. More interesting is the potential application in law enforcement:

"The dispatcher can see the area an officer is exploring, tell them to check out a building or suggest where someone might be hiding … especially at night."

The idea of a dispatcher using a virtual map to guide a local agent is very science fiction: fans of the film Max Headroom will recall how effective such an arrangement can be. Blue Dasher reckons its images are of sufficient density to be used in such a way.

The company wants to see the technology fitted into police cars too, for recording of incidents in every direction, though its accept that the open-sunroof-sticking-up-periscope approach may need to be modified.

We're still not convinced the world needs omni-directional images of every city street. But no doubt there are applications still to be discovered. Covering an entire city requires a considerable, and sustained, investment, and we've yet to see an application will generate enough revenue to pay for this.®

Bootnote

For all the news on the CTIA Wireless trade show see our CTIA roundup.

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