Facebook is planning to build a 3-D map of the entire world

By adding a 3D layer on the physical world, the company wants to smoothen everyday tasks.   | Photo Credit: Reuters

Facebook is planning to use a set of glasses containing cameras, microphones, and other sensors to build a map of the world in a project called Aria.

The map will include everything from a street view to immediate surroundings and will feature objects inside houses and buildings that will constantly keep updating. Simply put, it’s a Google Street View for the entire life.

This also means that Facebook will possess a live map with images of a user’s surroundings and will have accesss to passwords and sensitive documents they will be looking at with the glasses on. Maps of public places will be viewable by all, but maps of users’ homes and belongings will be private.

By adding a 3D layer on the physical world, the company wants to smoothen everyday tasks. The device can help find keys, navigate a new city, call a friend, and detect road hazards, present stats during a business meeting, and even hear better in a noisy environment.

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The Project Aria glasses not only sport the full sensor suite used in VR headsets for spatial awareness, but also compute location from GPS, take high-res pictures, and capture multichannel audio and eye images.

“Of course, a lot of this is still the domain of science fiction. To actually build glasses flexible enough to work for most face shapes and sizes, and create the software to support them, we still need several generations of breakthroughs, like systems to enhance audio and visual input, contextualized AI, and a lightweight frame to house it all,” Facebook said in a statement.

If successful, the final result would be a live 3D map of the world, regularly updated by people walking around wearing the AR headsets.

Starting this month, the glasses will be made available to about hundred Facebook employees and contractors in the United States. These testers, the company said, are trained in where and when to use the device. These employees will collect data by wearing the glasses to help Facebook support the development of head-tracking, eye-tracking, and audio algorithms.

The collected data will be used to build more Augmented Reality and AI products in the future. The firm is also starting a pilot program with Carnegie Mellon University’s Cognitive Assistance Laboratory to build 3D maps of museums and airports that will have multiple applications, including helping people with visual impairments better navigate their surroundings. The data collected as part of this research will be stored by CMU.

The project is a part of Facebook’s larger AR plans. Regarding privacy issues, the social-media giant said that before the data is made available to researchers, it will be automatically scrubbed to blur faces and vehicle license plates.

It also claims that the glasses do not use facial recognition technology, and that the data will not be used to inform the ads people see across Facebook products.

“Facebook will keep Project Aria data secure by using encryption and a secure ingestion system to upload the data from the device to Facebook back-end storage systems,” Facebook said.

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Printable version | Oct 27, 2020 3:41:54 PM |

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