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Sub-Centimeter Positioning Coming To Mobile Phones 70

Oooskar writes "SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping), a technique invented by NASA, defines the concept of building a 3D-map of the environment and simultaneously computing the position within it. Based on SLAM, Swedish startup 13th Lab has implemented real-time sub-centimeter local 3D-positioning by using only the sensors, most importantly the camera, already present in most mobile devices (demo video). The technology will be made available as a software platform for developers (sign up for beta). A first application demonstrating the technology has just been released for the iPad2. The technology should be available on other devices with similar computational power soon."
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Sub-Centimeter Positioning Coming To Mobile Phones

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  • I'm sure there are lots of useful applications for this tech, but I doubt it will be popular in the cell phone market. A cell phone is not exactly a "precision" instrument to begin with, so how would you use such data in the real world?

    I suspect this will find a lot of cool niches to fill in other devices, but phones? Not so much.

    • by allanw ( 842185 )
      It'd be pretty useful for augmented reality, or position indoors.
  • Apparently - this is for "mapping" relativity small areas - like interior areas - to be done with something like a vehicle or small robot which can "scan" the area with the camera.

    This is not something like global, wide-area sub-millimeter GPS accuracy.

    • It would be pretty cool for interior design work... will that furniture set fit in this area? what about entertainment center placement? Oooh, colors on the walls? I mean there are a lot of applications that do some of this, but being able to do a short 360 turn, and have it image, and map out a living space could be very useful. Probably more so 5-10 years ago during the house flipping boom, just the same. I also think it would be cool to be able to aggregate that data into real-world mapping, and corr
    • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

      I could see using something like this for inspection work/etc. A phone-based solution might also be useful if you need surveying but without any legal need for a certified survey (small building projects, etc). It would be nice to be able to easily dig posts for a fence or deck and have everything just "line up" in the end.

  • Neat (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Normal Dan ( 1053064 ) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @02:20PM (#36765382)
    There's always a slight hint of jealousy when things like this come out. Either I had a similar idea and no time to work on it, or I kick myself for not coming up with the idea myself. c'est la vie
    • by mini me ( 132455 )

      As a farmer, I came up with a very similar idea of using the camera and other sensors on a cell phone to determine a tractor's position in the field for autonomous operation. You can buy very expensive GPS (RTK)-based systems that do the same, but I wanted something that would run on low-cost consumer devices with the only external interface being to the tractor's mechanical components.

      Like you, I unfortunately could find the time to work on it. However, I am very excited about this because it means that re

      • That'd be great, until you plow under your chickens while the GPS device is "recalculating".... Just what we need, a 13-ton, 300HP behemoth dragging a ground churning attachment running a muck while your sitting in the living room drinking tea.
  • From watching the video in the article, I can see this being useful for someone that needs to keeps his eyes on something (cut open patient being operated on) while giving him extra information. In other words, he can see an image on the screen of what the organ looks like while simultaneously seeing the tissue he's cutting through trying to get to it. You can modify that to other scientific uses as well. That will be further down the road though.
  • by rossdee ( 243626 ) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @02:27PM (#36765476)

    "by using only the sensors, most importantly the camera, already present in most mobile devices"

    Not going to help much if the device is inside something, like a pocket of a coat, a drawer, a bag or purse etc.
    If it was out in the open, I could see it or hear it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by raddan ( 519638 ) *
      I, too, wonder about the usefulness of the camera. There's also the issue of power, which on mobile devices is a major issue. You might be willing to spend power if spatial precision is why the device exists, but I suspect that most people have other uses for their cellphones.

      That said, there are other useful sensors on the phone, namely the accelerometer, the microphone, the wi-fi antenna, and in some cases, a magnetometer. These folks [] used those sensors, especially the accelerometer which has a negl
  • by Anonymous Coward

    A lot of the foundation for SLAM came out of Kalman filtering... Kalman filtering is essentially a state estimation technique reconciling where you THINK you are versus where your sensors TELL you you are. The technology was originally developed and applied for use on the guidance systems for the Apollo missions. SLAM is a giant step beyond just Kalman filtering though and there has been a large body of work from a large number of university researches. To sum it up as NASA technology is a little mislead

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The whole summary (and I suspect the article as well) is misleading. SLAM has been an active area of research for many years. Given the types of sensors on an iPad, there is no way it could be accurate enough to give sub-centimeter positioning except perhaps under very controlled conditions. Search for SLAM in robotics journals and you'll see all kinds of results, none of which would claim sub-centimeter accuracy. There's a reason why DARPA Grand Challenge and Urban Challenge vehicles all had laser scanners

    • Indeed, the summary makes it sounds like "SLAM" is the name of a piece of software developed by NASA, when really it's a generic acronym describing an entire field of research. Terrible summary.

      (And the Kalman filter is so overhyped and misunderstood, it has begun to get on my nerves. It's Bayes Rule for the special case of a linear system and Gaussian probability densities, applied over and over. That's it. People get so wrapped up in its "optimality" that they forget what it actually is. I wonder, ho

  • I'm eagerly awaiting an android version of this. This software, an android phone and a robot platform controlled by the android phone: Cool stuff alert

  • Fox: You took my sonar concept and applied it to every phone in the city. With half the city feeding you sonar, you can image all of Gotham. This is wrong.

    Batman: I've got to find this man, Lucius.

    Fox: At what cost?

    Batman: The database is null-key encrypted. It can only be accessed by one person.

    Fox: This is too much power for one person.

    Batman: It's why I gave it to you. Only you can use it.

    Fox: Spying on 30 million people isn't part of my job description.

    Batman: This is an audio sample. If he talks within

  • New ads (Score:5, Funny)

    by vawwyakr ( 1992390 ) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @02:44PM (#36765786)
    "It looks like you've been standing at this urinal for more than 10 seconds, would you like some information on swollen prostate drugs or some soothing sounds of water dripping?"
    • by syousef ( 465911 )

      "It looks like you've been standing at this urinal for more than 10 seconds, would you like some information on swollen prostate drugs or some soothing sounds of water dripping?"

      Clippy, is that you? I didn't want you on my screen and I sure as hell don't want you in the bathroom with me! Get out!

  • I wonder if NASA are using this tech in their SPHERES [] thingies.
  • Wake me up when I can use my phone as a mouse...

  • If you could create a quick map of a lot, or of a building, using this type of technique, it could save countless hours of measurement and recordation. It would make quick building surveys of existing conditions take hours instead of days. This could have some very cool applications in my world, indeed!

    • It would also make it very easy to find your way back to your vehicle in a crowded parking lot.... assuming it can work in such a space where the contents are constantly changing.

    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

      There's already an app for that: MagicPlan (

  • Here's [] an open source variant.
  • Thank you Slashdot for finally using metric!

    Your next job is to correctly spell centimetre!

    It's a French word; it's a soft "er". :p
    • At this time, only three countries - Burma, Liberia, and the US - have not adopted the International System of Units (SI, or metric system) as their official system of weights and measures. Although use of the metric system has been sanctioned by law in the US since 1866, it has been slow in displacing the American adaptation of the British Imperial System known as the US Customary System. The US is the only industrialized nation that does not mainly use the metric system in its commercial and standards act

      • My father worked at Boeing and was involved in engineering lots of aircraft, including top-secret projects for the DOD. He said the reason they used inches and feet, etc., is that different countries use slightly different lengths for the millimeter, centimeter, meter, etc. According to him, the tiny differences can cause real problems fitting everything together, especially when sourcing parts from different countries. I'm not sure if that's the whole story, or if it is still the case.
  • by parkmw ( 925390 )
    I half expected an Ad to show up floating around when they were moving the iPad2 around the room.
  • .. to put an old cell phone on my lawn mower.
  • While I understand the general concept of how GPS locating works (your device captures timestamps from 3-or-more various global positioning satellites, then calculates where in the world you are), I've always been curious about how accurrate they can actually be.

    If you are going to calculate, down to sub-centimeter distances, where your device is, wouldn't you need to know the EXACT location of these satellites, down to the sub-centimeter level of its altitude/lattitude/longitude? Like, if one of the satell

    • The other thing is that The Americas and Europe are moving apart at about 2.5cm per year, so even if you have the precise location in relation to the satellite, the fact that the ground is moving limits how accurately you can determine whereabouts in for example New York is exactly underneath it.

      On the other hand the most accurate version of GPS is able to land a plane without looking out the window, and that requires an accuracy of a bit better than 5 meters to hit the runway.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Whilst a standard consumer GPS can only be accurate to 5m or so, survey level equipment can be accurate to the nearest mm. There are two main differences. Firstly, survey level equipment fully uses the carrier phase from the GPS satellites, whereas consumer equipment only uses the code phase, which is less accurate. Secondly, survey equipment can receive corrections from a base station, which gives the GPS information on how much the satellite signals are out by. The combination of these two is called Real

  • ....a defect in one of the Galaxy S sensors will give you sub-centimeter positioning two and a half blocks to West-Northwest of your actual position. Samsung will deny the defect for six months, then release a patch that doesn't affect the problem.

You know, Callahan's is a peaceable bar, but if you ask that dog what his favorite formatter is, and he says "roff! roff!", well, I'll just have to...