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European Researchers Develop New Use for Cell Phone Photos

Hyperlinking reality is a huge advance for mobile navigation, interaction and for image recognition. European researchers working on the MOBVIS project have successfully developed a system that can attach hyperlinks to real-world urban features.

Users simply take a picture of a streetscape with their mobile phone and the MOBVIS will render relevant information by applying an icon, within the picture on the user's phone, to the feature. Users can click on the icon to get the information directly. MOBVIS can even identify logos and banners.

The potential range of applications is vast. Click the icon to get details about what bus routes are served by a particular stop or quickly scan today's specials on a restaurant menu.

Interactive tourism
Tourism is one of this technology's key applications. Instead of using guidebooks tourists can take a picture to learn the history and culture of where they are. MOBVIS' system can recognize urban semantic information, such as pedestrian crossings and traffic signs, and it can extract from that meaningful information about the context of the image. The system knows, for example, that the user is walking through pedestrian zones with shops.

The technology context enables the system to localize areas within the image where specific features will occur. This extrapolation of detail from the context can help the system to recognize and interpret its surroundings, and direct the user to specific points within the city.

A further service developed in MOBVIS is a mobile multimodal positioning capability that uses information from a number of sensors, to serve as a GPS positioning system that can provide users with directions.

MOBVIS partnered with Tele Atlas to provide geo-referenced imagery to the project. Tele Atlas, a provider of digital maps for various kinds of geo-services, continuously collects geo-referenced imagery on road and urban infrastructure.

Picture-driven search engine
The MOBVIS interface ultimately works like a picture-driven search engine about things that just surround the user. The picture is a search query, and the system matches the picture and the features it contains with results in its database.

Users then select the "search hits" by picking the hyperlink on the object of interest. The particular contribution by MOBVIS is to enable free exploration of urban space instead of needing a guide to point to specific opportunities for interaction.

The MOBVIS project received funding from the Future Emerging Technologies FET Open strategic objective within the ICT strand of the Sixth Framework Programme for research.
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