Quiksee to Take Google StreetViews Off the Streets and Indoors with Mobile Camera Device?

StreetViews indoors? Not long ago, Google started inviting businesses to apply to have Google Photographers film the insides of their businesses. But what if those photographers showed up with something like this:

An image of someone riding a mobile camera device with cameras mounted on top and a laptop in front.

The news of Google’s acquisition of Quiksee, also known as Mentorwave Technologies Ltd., is spreading around the Web, and most of the focus of the discussion is on Quiksee’s technology for easy virtual tour creation.

But Quiksee’s patent filings reveal that there’s more that Google might use, including a mobile device that can be used to film in places where Google’s StreetView cars can’t go, such as sidewalks, parks, and indoors. Quicksee’s patents, assigned to them under the name Mentorwave Technologies Ltd., show some other technologies that might be attractive to Google.

A view of the mobile camera device without a rider.

Of course, Google photographers (and possibly Google videographers in the future) can’t be everywhere all at once, which is what makes Quiksee’s virtual tour process interesting. The following Quiksee video shows how someone can create their own virtual video tour using Quiksee:

The announcement of the acquisition on the Quiksee site notes that the co-founders of Quiksee, Rony Amira, Gadi Royz and Assaf Harel will be joining the Google Geo team.

A Google patent application filed in 2006 described the possibility that Google might start indexing the interiors of stores and museums using “a small motorized vehicle or robot.” I wrote about it in Google on Reading Text in Images from Street Views, Store Shelves, and Museum Interiors. Google acquiring Quiksee might push forward the time when something like that happens.

Here are the granted patents and patent applications from Quiksee (under the name Mentorwave Technologies LTD) that would presumably go with the company to Google:

Mobile Device Suitable for Supporting Apparatus for Site Imaging While in Transit
Invented by Rony Amira and Gadi Royz
Assigned to Mentorwave Technologies LTD.
US Patent Application 20080035402
US Patent 7,726,888
Granted June 1, 2010
Published February 14, 2008
Filed: June 9, 2005

Abstract

A mobile device which supports apparatus for site imaging while in transit is disclosed. The mobile device comprises:

  • a plurality of wheels,
  • an imaging unit having at least one camera and supported above the head of an operator,
  • a control unit for monitoring and controlling operation of each camera and of generated image data so as to produce an interactive movie,
  • a steering device for navigating the mobile device within the site,
  • a measuring device for measuring the relative displacement of the mobile device,
  • a computer for determining the relative location and orientation of the mobile device within the site and for processing data, and
  • a monitor.

In one embodiment, two of the wheels are self-aligning caster wheels, and a mechanism and method for preventing drifting during the initial advancement of the mobile device are provided. A rotating mechanism is actuated until each caster wheel achieves a trailing position.

Method and System for Displaying via a Network of an Interactive Movie
Invented by Rony Amira and Assaf Harel
Assigned to Mentorwave Technologies LTD.
US Patent Application 20090019496
Published January 15, 2009
Filed: May 29, 2006

Abstract

The present invention relates to a system for transferring an interactive walkthrough movie located at a server via a network and displaying the same at a user station, which comprises:

(a) a display unit at the user station for displaying movie frames;

(b) a control device at the user station for enabling the user to navigate within the movie;

(c) a map of the movie describing the links between the individual movie frames and the index of each movie frame, said map also maintains at any given time the present virtual location of the user within the map; and

(d) a prediction unit for receiving inputs from said map and from a user control device, and based on said inputs predicting those future frames that may be required for view by the user, and instructing the server to convey said predicted future frames to the user station.

The prediction unit may order a first level of resolution frames when the user is in a virtual movement, and a second level of resolution frames when the user is stationary within the interactive movie.

Method and Apparatus for Making a Virtual Movie for Use in Exploring a site
Invented by Rony Amira and Gadi Royz
Assigned to Mentorwave Technologies LTD.
US Patent Application 20090174771
Published July 9, 2009
Filed: January 4, 2007

Abstract

A method for producing an interactive virtual movie which simulates the walking of a user within a real site and exploring the same. A scanning apparatus defines minimal conditions for the capturing of a new photograph, including one or more of:

(i) displacement of the apparatus by a distance D;

(ii) change of the apparatus orientation by an angle .DELTA..degree.; or

(iii) change of the orientation of the camera with respect to the apparatus by an angle of .delta..degree..

A photograph is captured each time the apparatus exceeds one of the predefined minimal conditions, wherein the measurements of the variables is reset after each capturing. The method also includes storing the captured photographs and forming open chains of those photographs captured during a common route photographing session, and forming closed chains, of photographs captured during a common junction photographing. For each of those first and last from among the closed chain photographs relating to the junction, a corresponding similar photograph is found meeting one of the criteria of highest correlation or having the closest field of view direction, and connecting between them.

Method and apparatus for virtual walkthrough
Invented by Rony Amira and Gadi Royz
Assigned to Mentorwave Technologies LTD.
US Patent 7,443,402
Granted October 28, 2008
Filed: November 24, 2003

Abstract

Method for producing an interactive virtual movie, which simulates walking of a user within a real site, comprising:

(a) Defining first minimal conditions:

(b) Defining second minimal conditions;

(c) Moving a scanning apparatus along routes within the site, measuring the x,y, displacement, and angular orientation of the scanning apparatus at any given time, and creating a new node at least whenever such first minimal conditions are met;

(d) Obtaining an image data at each node location reflecting a camera unit field of view, and associating the image data and its orientation with the x,y. coordinates of the present node;

(e) Finding and registering neighborhood links between pairs of nodes, each link satisfies at least said second minimal conditions; and

(f) Further associating with each created link an exit angular orientation and entry angular orientation to nodes of each pair.

The next rider on this device might just be wearing a Google T-Shirt:

Another view of the mobile camera device with rider from the front.

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16 thoughts on “Quiksee to Take Google StreetViews Off the Streets and Indoors with Mobile Camera Device?”

  1. Google is expanding again.I watched the video and QuikSee is really good. I think this is a step up for Google.

  2. Hi Andrew,

    Google has been actively looking for companies to acquire, and they’ve uncovered some interesting technologies, and bright people doing so. The video makes building a virtual tour look easy. I’m a little surprised that there really hasn’t been much commentary elsewhere on the Web about what looks like a good working prototype for an indoors mobile video device, like in the photos from the patent that I included in this post.

  3. I’m wondering if there is a place where Google won’t send their cameras. The centre of the earth? New galaxies? Reading text within in images from street view cars is certainly interesting – would this content compliment local business ads or local search? I presume it could be used for searches within Google Maps? Would it also allow Google to place more relevant contextual ads around a Google Map?

  4. Hi Matt,

    I believe that they have been chased off military bases, and I know at least one person who lives on a “private road” that the Google Streetview team is avoiding filming. I jokingly created a robots.txt file sign for my front door a few years back, thinking that it would be fun to find it later in streetviews after my house was filmed. I decided that none of my neighbors would end up getting the joke, and never put the sign up. Looking back, I wish I had.

    My guess is that business owners might be able to upload virtual tours to their Google Place Pages, to YouTube possibly, and elsewhere.

    If Google followed up with using vehicles like the ones shown above, I would guess that they might prefer to do something like what they are presently doing with having business owners request photographers come and take pictures of the insides of their businesses. From a legal point of view, that might be their best approach.

    Google did also file a patent about advertising in Streetviews not long ago, which I wrote about in How Google Might Enable Property Owner Advertising in Streetviews Images.

  5. Hi Carl,

    Thanks. I don’t know whether or not we will see the kind of streetviews advertising that I described in my post on the topic, but the idea is out there.

  6. This is another interesting acquire by Google. I wonder if they would just take over the software solution or actually make it an integrated google product?

    Google have been providing shoots from bicycles also – so why not take in inside buildings also?

  7. That video just makes it look too easy.

    Google is tearing it up I am excited to see this new technology. Street View is great, this new macro street view will be even sweeter. Even better planning for visiting unknown territory!!

    This is a great acquisition for Google.

  8. Hi Rasmus,

    It’s hard to tell exactly what Google will take from their acquisition. The virtual tour software that Quiksee developed would allow a large number of people to create their own tours, which would be interesting to see on Google Place pages. It would take a lot more work for Google to start sending people to video the insides of buildings, but Google has already expended a lot of effort into creating Streetviews, and they are sending photographers out to businesses. So it might not be surprising if they do use a device like the one described in the patent.

  9. Hi Mark,

    I think it was a great acquisition for Google as well. The virtual tour video made me want to create a number of videos myself as I was watching it.

  10. Streetview is awesome. It’s actually helped me find way to certain places in Florence, italy where i’m studying abroad. Plus who wouldn’t want to drive that sweet ride around? Lol

  11. Hi Rob,

    I use streetviews sometimes before I visit somewhere so that I can look for landmarks to keep an eye out for – it’s pretty useful.

  12. First google earth, now this..amazing. Google will have every nook and cranny covered….hmm, are these submersible?

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