As the major media and short-sighted analysts continue to trash camera phones for their poor resolution, some people are actually realizing that it's not the camera that makes it interesting, but the fact that the camera is connected. Here's yet another example of some people trying to take advantage of a camera phone for its ability to do something that a regular camera cannot do. Everyone is talking about location-based services, and one of the reasons why many think they're finally set to take off is that most new phones have GPS included as part of the efforts to get E-911 location services in place for emergency phone calls. However, once that GPS is there, lots of people see the ability to do other services. The problem, though, is that GPS has some weaknesses - especially in urban areas. So, some researchers from the UK are working on photo-recognition software that would let someone take a camera phone photo of a building, send it off to a server, and the software on the server would figure out where the person was and even send them back directions to their destination. Of course, this seems like quite a lot of effort, especially considering that GPS is already pretty good and will only get better at filling in where it currently has problems. Still, the researchers claim that the advantage of their system is that it can also tell which direction the person is facing and thus give them clearer directions ("go left" instead of "head west"). Still, is that really worth money to people? Furthermore, it seems like there are two huge hurdles to this system: (a) they need to create and maintain a huge database of up-to-date images of building photos and (b) make sure the software can recognize the buildings taken from different angles and distances in variable lighting and weather conditions. It seems difficult to believe that the combination of the database and the software can be good enough at a reasonable enough cost that it's worthwhile for enough people to actually use the service. So, while this particular application might not go very far, it is still an interesting look at a way to take advantage of what makes a camera phone special.
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