Google Street View... live
Thanks to a prestigious advanced grant of 2.5 million euros from the European Commission, Luc Van Gool 52 will be able to devote the next five years to writing software that allows us to walk the streets of Milan in 3D and check whether there is a traffic jam on a given motorway. Microsoft recently named him one of the top authors in computer vision. It’s Google Street View, but then even more 'live'. “Google uses photos,” says Van Gool. “We are creating technology which can be used to replace those images with 3D models, making everything much more realistic. All the buildings in a given street will be lifelike. In the near future cameras will be fitted to cars as standard options, while the new generation of youth will be able to constantly send images from their mobile phones. This will create a three-dimensional, real time environment.” The idea is to render people, cars and houses unrecognizable, so that nobody can be recognised or followed. The European Commission has expressed concern with regards to privacy in this respect. Incoming video images will also be immediately deleted after being processed. The technology enables the live broadcasting of traffic congestion as well as the behaviour of cyclists, drivers and pedestrians, allowing people to check which route to take in the morning before setting off for work. Authorities will also be able to prepare better for public works through, for example, monitoring wear and tear on a given road without having to examine it on location. Van Gool has already received offers from the United States, but has opted for Europe instead, hoping to complete his project within five years. “We can then finally market it through a spin-off company,” he says. An advance grant of 2.5 million euros from the European Commission is only intended for top researchers, with Flemish universities receiving three of these grants last year and no less than eight this year. KU Leuven led the field with six grants, including political scientist Marc Hooghe, rheumatologist Frank Luyten, physician Jan Staessen, industrial engineer Johan Suykens and physicist Piet Van Duppen joining Van Gool. Meanwhile the University of Ghent’s Guy Marin, a chemical engineer and political scientist Stefaan Walgrave at the University of Antwerp also received grants.