Will VPS replace GPS?

Scape_Technologies.jpg

Image courtesy of Scape Technologies

by Jeff Seibenhener, FreightWaves Market Expert

London-based Scape Technologies recently raised $8 million in seed funding for further development of its “Visual Positioning Service.” With funding backed by Entrepreneur First, Fly Ventures, LocalGlobe and Mosaic Ventures, the technology startup is working to bring artificial intelligence (AI) to camera devices so that they can recognize their surroundings. The technology provides centimeter-level location recognition from three-dimensional (3D) representations of environments. Initially targeted towards augmented reality applications, the broader outreach will encompass logistics and robotics.

How does it work?

Scape Technologies’ “Vision Engine” creates large-scale 3D maps from ordinary video and images. Smart camera devices can then query the Vision Engine through its Visual Positioning Service (VPS) application program interface (API) to determine the exact location. VPS is far more accurate than the Global Positioning System (GPS) and doesn’t have the challenge of GPS drift. GPS drift occurs when the positional information that is obtained from GPS satellites move over time, causing most applications to add algorithms to address that drift. Drift can also be caused by weak signals from satellites due to thick cloud cover or tall buildings. Being based in London, it only made sense for the first 3D map that Scape Technologies built to be of London. Starting this month, Scape’s VPS service is available to select partners within London via Scape’s software development kit.

The company hopes to enable any machine equipped with a camera to understand its surroundings. If the company can accomplish that goal, applications in the supply chain can augment innovations such as autonomy, robotics and navigation. The big challenge is how to scale the imagery captured and needed to create the 3D maps. This would be an effort similar to, but much more challenging than the effort Google expended when collecting street views for its mapping. Over the next several years, Scape Technologies also plans to develop what it calls “ubiquitous spatial intelligence,” which will allow devices to understand where they are and what is around them, using only a camera.

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