GPS Business News is reporting this morning that TomTom has filed a European patent for the use of real-time video for navigation (registration required).
There’s been a lot of buzz for the past year or so about next generation navigation systems using 3-D imagery to create artificial cityscapes, and map data providers are on the verge of offering such imagery for major cities. And while it wouldn’t have surprised me to see map data providers begin to use captured video imagery, ala Google Maps Street View, this goes way beyond that, integrating real-time video on the GPS receiver’s screen.
Technical and financial challenges
The difficulty in making this technology work lies in calibration. How do you make what the camera records match up with the navigation database? The article cites sensors to determine camera angle, multiple cameras, and anticipatory pattern recognition, described in this quote from the patent — "Using map data may simplify the pattern recognition techniques, as it is easier to recognize for instance a road, when it is approximately known from the map data where the road is."
GPS Business News thinks this technology is limited by cost factors as well:
As it looks now this invention remains quite futuristic and might not be found in a consumer device very soon. Even if the technological challenges have been overcome by TomTom using the methods described, the whole price of such a device would remain prohibitive today due to the hardware necessary to run the solution: sensors, powerful processor and one or more cameras, including infrared camera for night navigation.
Personally, I don’t believe the barriers are insurmountable, though the cost would likely go up even more if external cameras are required, as opposed to an integrated solution where everything is contained in the navigation device. But that makes the technical challenges that much more difficult.
Nevertheless, the future of personal navigation devices is quite bright. I certainly don’t see cell phone navigation tackling this sorts of innovation!