If you thought that Barbara Streisand got bent out of shape over someone photographing her house from public airspace as part of an effort to document the entire coastline, just imagine how lots of people will feel about some random van, covered in digital cameras, roaming through their neighborhood, snapping pictures of everything, to create a giant photographic database of every building in the US, connected via GPS location info to satellite photos for the view from the sky. The idea is to then offer this database to insurance companies and police to use in appraisals, investigations or... well... to spy on what your property looks like, I guess. There have been similar projects, though on a smaller scale. There was one such project a few years ago where you could tour Manhattan in pictures. Photographers had literally taken thousands of photos at street level in Manhattan and connected them to let you take something of a virtual tour of the city. In the meantime, the folks working on this "photograph every building" project should team up with those researchers in the UK who wanted to create a building recognition system that would let you snap a photo of a building with your camera phone, and have the phone immediately tell you where you are. Of course, you could also see the technology being useful for services like online mapping applications, where they could give you not only turn by turn directions, but also photos of specific buildings or landmarks where you should turn. Whether you think this is cool or creepy (or possibly, both), it sounds like the company is still a long way from actually bringing this to market.
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