Indoor Mapping with Visual Positioning Service (VPS)

Google IO is an annual conference which presents the latest innovation and improvement on Google products. No exception this year in IO 2017. Google announced many breakthroughs, innovations and new features on its products like Android, Allo, Google Home, Youtube, Google Map/Earth and so on. The one that related to localization and mapping is indoor positioning technology based on visual positioning service (VPS). 

What is Visual Positioning Service (VPS)

Visual Positioning Service (VPS) is a technology which helps devices quickly and accurately understand their position and location  indoors, using several types of  sensors like camera, gyroscope, accelerometer, compass, etc. When a camera senses an object, it will identify unique landmarks from the object in the real world whose location are estimated by sensors. Those landmarks are just like point cloud that extracted form lidar or laser scanner. But of course with much less number as can be seen in figure one.
Indoor Mapping with Visual Positioning System
Figure 1. Object landmark point

Visual Positioning Service (VPS) is developing based on robot mapping approach which is called simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM). SLAM is a method with intensive computation that keep tracking position and simultaneously constructing and updating object in unknown environment. Extended Kalman Filter and Particle Filter are two popular methods that is implemented in SLAM development.

The Technology for Indoor Positioning, Tracking and Mapping

Google Tango is the technology platform behind indoor positioning system. Tango is the main technology for both Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). There are three functionalities in Tango that enable augmented reality mapping and positioning:
  1. Depth Perception. Identify and detecting size, dimesion, distance and surface of an object.
  2. Area Learning. Core functionality of localization and mapping that store data and metadata such as instruction, point of interest and notes that can be used for computational purpose. 
  3. Motion tracking. Device movement tracking using combination of several sensors like accelerometer and gyroscope.

Indoor Mapping Application

There are many possibilities of application using visual positioning system for indoor tracking and mapping. In the company blog and IO 2017, Google presented a shopping application in a very large store where a consumer can easily find a product. Another possibility is a guided tour. For example, visitors can track their position and then device can provide information with text or audio related to location or interesting object  that seen in the tour.

Tango Visual Positioning Service in Action
Figure 2. Tango Visual Positioning Service in Action

Finally, we can't wait and really excited to see Virtual Positioning Service (VPS) in action. 

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