Earthmine: Digitizing the Streets with NASA Technology

Earthmine imagery

The online mapping space continues its march towards 3D and startup Earthmine is at the forefront. Earthmine has developed technology that enables them to get high-resolution 3D geo-imagery quickly. They’ve developed a street-level camera system that enables them to capture 3D data for each pixel.

Yesterday Earthmine announced that they have exclusive access to the same NASA technology that is used on the Mars Rover. The technology comes from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. As a part of the deal CalTech will take an equity stake in Eartmine. From the press release:

The agreement between JPL and earthmine includes exclusive use of software and algorithms for street level mapping, and asset management and encompasses stereo vision systems and camera calibration algorithms. earthmine will utilize the software and algorithms as a part of its processing pipeline, which automates the creation of high-quality, seamless panoramic imagery with pixel-for-pixel 3D depth information from its image collection system.

The technology licensed by earthmine is currently utilized as a part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, a long-term effort of robotic exploration of the red planet. Wide angle stereo cameras are mounted on NASA’s twin robot geologists, the Mars Exploration Rovers (MERs) launched toward Mars in 2003. The licensed software and algorithms are used to create a 3D representation of the local terrain, allowing autonomous routing of the MERs through the Martian environment. earthmine has combined this JPL technology with its unique, capture hardware and web delivery technology to deliver 3D data with unprecedented density and accuracy.

3D was made for the web. Imagine flying through Google Earth or Live’s 3D Maps (Radar post) and getting to see Earthmine-quality imagery alongside the rendered models. I think that both MS and Google will make more investments in this area.

Watch Earthmine’s trippy video after the jump for a taste of what’s to come from them and an explanation of how they do it. Also enjoy the uncredited music from Lemon Jelly.

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