Tuesday, January 7, 2014

How Google Knows Your House Number


Google Street View is great at giving you a private tour of those places you could never get to visit yourself—Machu Picchu, say, or the Large Hadron Collider. But where it starts to feel weird is when it goes to the places that are already all too familiar—like your own home. It’s a little unnerving to think that Google knows where you live.

A new paper from a team led by Google researcher Ian Goodfellow, and covered in MIT's Technology Review, now reveals quite how intimately Google knows your street, down to the decorative plaque on your door that shows your house number. Because while users can zoom into Street View images and interpret that level of detail, so can an automated system used by the tech giant to produce accurate maps.

As the researchers explained in their introduction:

Recognizing multi-digit numbers in photographs captured at street level is an important component of modern-day map making. A classic example of a corpus of such street level photographs is Google’s Street View imagery comprised of hundreds of millions of geo-located 360 degree panoramic images. The ability to automatically transcribe an address number from a geo-located patch of pixels and associate the transcribed number with a known street address helps pinpoint, with a high degree of accuracy, the location of the building it represents.

For the rest of the story: http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/how-google-knows-your-house-number

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