In a presentation at the recent TED2010 conference, Microsoft architect Blaise Aguera y Arcas outlined the new features coming to Bing Maps. After walking through the current features of aerial photographs, including Bird’s Eye View, he zooms in further, bringing the point-of-view down to the street level. At the street level, the new Bing Maps is able to operate within a 3D environment. The application understands faces of buildings, the surfaces of streets, as well as perspective and depth of perception.

Next, he takes us into a building, in this case the Pike Place Market in Seattle, WA. Using backpack cameras, his team has recorded the interior of this building, as well as other public places, especially tourist spots. Once inside, he continues the demonstration by contacting his team that is currently waiting in the Market. They activated a video camera and transmit live video from the Market to the Bing Maps server over a 4G wireless connection, which was then displayed on his screen contextually within the images already stored there.

Augmented reality

The new features are based around the concept of augmented reality. Augmented reality merges a view of a physical, real-world environment with computer-generated imagery to create a mixed reality. Another example of augmented reality is placing the yellow “First Down” lines on a televised football game or highlighting the puck with a tail in an ice hockey game.

The technology presented in this Bing Maps demonstration goes way beyond these simple examples, however. Adding users’ photographs and live video to a pre-captured stock photograph set of a point of interest in such a way that they precisely overlay those stock images adds to the reality of the location, giving it more depth and character. With the video mentioned above, the location team was actually moving the camera around. The server was able to keep up with those movements, placing the video image on top of the appropriate spots in the stock images and moving the video frame smoothly and seamlessly to follow the team’s movements.

Watch the TED2010 video clip, and then let us know what you think about the augmented reality feature of Bing Map.