Omniveillance- Microsoft’s Mobicast Stitches Together Multiple Cell Phone Videos in Real Time

December 28th, 2009

From New Scientist (H/T Gizmodo):

Now researchers from Microsoft’s labs in Cairo, Egypt, have developed a way to combine the video from multiple phones capturing views of the same scene into larger, more detailed footage to be broadcast live online.

When two or more phones with the software start streaming video, they synchronise their clocks with the server, which then uses timestamps on the footage to align video frames in time. Then image-recognition technology gauges how footage physically overlaps: features such as edges and corners are used to find areas that match, before the images are blended to create a wider view of the scene. The method used and end result are much like those of software that stitches multiple photos of, say, a landscape, into a larger image.

With this technology,  if two or more people start streaming video of an event with their cell phones, Microsoft can stitch together the images, and generate a 360 degree panorama film in real time.

Bhaskar Roy, co-founder of Qik, says this kind of technology has the potential to enhance services like his own. “Think of somewhere where there will be a lot of people capturing video on phones, like a sporting or breaking news event,” he says. “This could bring us closer to experiencing it in 360 degrees from our desk.”

I previously blogged about researchers at Georgia Tech incorporating streaming video into Google Maps.

Putting these technologies together paints a bleak picture for the future. As I wrote in Omniveillance (p.3 40):

Although the current version of Street View is limited to pre-recorded still photographs, future technology will allow real-time streaming video feeds of everything occurring in public. Immersive Media, the company that provides the surveillance apparatus for Google, has not stopped its research at still photographs. Currently in its laboratories it is developing what it calls “Immersive 360° Video” or “Spherical Video.”159 Rather than just taking still shots of specific locations, the technology can record interactive and navigable 360-degree videos.160 This capability allows a user to watch a video from multiple camera angles.161 These omens ominously bear on the value of Street View, and create a scary image of what Google could do. Because there is no viable right to privacy in public, and because Google seeks to create a visual map of the planet, there is nothing preventing Google or any other company from installing such video cameras with tagging capabilities on the rooftops of private business throughout America. This vision of the future poses serious issues and conjures up an Orwellian nightmare.162

In an earlier draft of the Article, I think I mentioned the possibility of cell phone cameras uploading video of public events. I don’t recall why I cut this section out, but in hindsight, it was quite prescient.