Video Walkthrough of C3 Technologies' 3D Mapping Process

by

Over the weekend, there was a report that Apple did indeed acquire 3D mapping company C3 Technologies. In our original profile of the company, we mentioned that it was purchased in part from Saab AB, a Swedish aerospace and defense company.

The technology had originally been developed for military purposes such as missile targetting. Here's a video of how the mapping data is obtained:


Technology Review previously described the process:

C3's models are generated with little human intervention. First, a plane equipped with a custom-designed package of professional-grade digital single-lens reflex cameras takes aerial photos. Four cameras look out along the main compass points, at oblique angles to the ground, to image buildings from the side as well as above. Additional cameras (the exact number is secret) capture overlapping images from their own carefully determined angles, producing a final set that contains all the information needed for a full 3-D rendering of a city's buildings. Machine-vision software developed by C3 compares pairs of overlapping images to gauge depth, just as our brains use stereo vision, to produce a richly detailed 3-D model.

Top Rated Comments

flottenheimer Avatar
120 months ago
It is incredible.

I still find even the regular Google Maps to be an amazing achievement. A data-set of photos covering the entire planet at pretty close range. And we all have access. For free. That's insanely great in my book.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mdriftmeyer Avatar
120 months ago

I believe that's London, not San Francisco.


Yeah, Big Ben and Wimbley kind of give it away. :D
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Strod Avatar
120 months ago

I know I've already posted but PLEASE!!! look at Nokia 3D mapping. I stumbled upon it by accident but the quality seems as good as the second video in this thread - and the loading time quicker.


That's cool, Chris. But I think you don't realize that Nokia/Ovi technology was actually licensed from C3 Technologies (http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/04/19/idUS246491+19-Apr-2011+BW20110419).

So... they look the same... because they ARE the same... but the point is that apparently now Apple owns the technology. :D
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
wiz329 Avatar
120 months ago

Does anybody else realize that they are physically going to have to fly over the entire earth every time they want to update buildings, roads, etc and then generate the data? The way the video describes, it seems dreadfully slow...

the surface area of the USA alone about 10 Million km^2. Which translates to 100,000 flying hours. Which translates to 500,000 hours to interpret and graph the data. Assuming 12 hours a day (daylight hours, and this is generous due to storms etc) for flights it would take nearly 23 years of flight time (obviously they would use more than one aircraft) to create just the US. And data interpretation 24/7 for the US would take 57 years. Even if they set up 100 data interpreting stations across the US it would take over half a year to generate the data.

Then land area of the whole world is about 150 million km^2 (or 510 million if you want to also include oceans).To keep the mapping update process under a year you would need nearly 1,000 data interpreting stations and over 300 aircraft. It's all possible, but just seems like a logistical nightmare, especially for something so far outside Apple's expertise.

I'm wondering how frequently Apple would update the maps.... And if Apple didn't update the maps it would become outdated pretty quickly.



I wonder how long it took that one google street view van to drive on every single road in the world.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Digitalclips Avatar
120 months ago

Does anybody else realize that they are physically going to have to fly over the entire earth every time they want to update buildings, roads, etc and then generate the data? The way the video describes, it seems dreadfully slow...

the surface area of the USA alone about 10 Million km^2. Which translates to 100,000 flying hours. Which translates to 500,000 hours to interpret and graph the data. Assuming 12 hours a day (daylight hours) for flights it would take nearly 23 years of flight time (obviously they would use more than one aircraft) to create just the US. And data interpretation 24/7 for the US would take 57 years. Even if they set up 100 data interpreting stations across the US it would take over half a year to generate the data.

Then land area of the whole world is about 150 million km^2 (or 510 million if you want to also include oceans).To keep the mapping update process under a year you would need nearly 1,000 data interpreting stations and over 300 aircraft. It's all possible, but just seems like a logistical nightmare, especially for something so far outside Apple's expertise.

I'm wondering how frequently Apple would update the maps.... And if Apple didn't update the maps it would become outdated pretty quickly.

Perhaps satellites can be used to update much of the initial imagery, heck you can read the label on a can of beans from space these days.

Which brings up another point ... When will Apple have their own satellites to augment iCloud? They can afford it ;)
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
fifthworld Avatar
120 months ago

Does anybody else realize that they are physically going to have to fly over the entire earth every time they want to update buildings, roads, etc and then generate the data? The way the video describes, it seems dreadfully slow...

the surface area of the USA alone about 10 Million km^2. Which translates to 100,000 flying hours. Which translates to 500,000 hours to interpret and graph the data. Assuming 12 hours a day (daylight hours, and this is generous due to storms etc) for flights it would take nearly 23 years of flight time (obviously they would use more than one aircraft) to create just the US. And data interpretation 24/7 for the US would take 57 years. Even if they set up 100 data interpreting stations across the US it would take over half a year to generate the data.

Then land area of the whole world is about 150 million km^2 (or 510 million if you want to also include oceans).To keep the mapping update process under a year you would need nearly 1,000 data interpreting stations and over 300 aircraft. It's all possible, but just seems like a logistical nightmare, especially for something so far outside Apple's expertise.

I'm wondering how frequently Apple would update the maps.... And if Apple didn't update the maps it would become outdated pretty quickly.


Just to put it in perspective, mapping of our planet has been going on for more that 2,000 year.

Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

16inchmacbookpromain

Kuo: New MacBook Pro Models to Feature Flat-Edged Design, MagSafe, No Touch Bar and More Ports

Thursday January 14, 2021 9:32 pm PST by
Apple is working on two new MacBook Pro models that will feature significant design changes, well-respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in a note to investors that was obtained by MacRumors. According to Kuo, Apple is developing two models in 14 and 16-inch size options. The new MacBook Pro machines will feature a flat-edged design, which Kuo describes as "similar to the iPhone 12" ...
foldable iPhone concept feature

Apple Testing In-Display Fingerprint Sensor for iPhone 13, Foldable iPhone Also in the Works

Friday January 15, 2021 1:46 pm PST by
Apple has started "early work" on an iPhone that has a foldable display, according to a new report from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. Though testing of a foldable iPhone has begun, Apple has not committed to releasing a device that has a foldable display. Development has not yet expanded beyond a display and Apple does not have full foldable iPhone prototypes in its labs. Like foldable...
iphone x camera close

iOS 14.4 Will Introduce Warning on iPhones With Non-Genuine Cameras

Thursday January 14, 2021 8:07 am PST by
In the second beta of iOS 14.4 seeded to developers and public testers this week, MacRumors contributor Steve Moser has discovered code indicating that Apple will be introducing a new warning on iPhones that have had their camera repaired or replaced with aftermarket components rather than genuine Apple components. "Unable to verify this iPhone has a genuine Apple camera," the message will...
iP12 charge airpods feature 2

Hidden iPhone 12 Hardware Feature Could Still be Unlocked

Thursday January 14, 2021 2:51 am PST by
All iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro models purportedly have a hidden reverse wireless charging feature, according to an FCC filing. The feature has not yet been activated, but could yet be unlocked for an upcoming Apple accessory. The FCC filing suggests that iPhone 12 models contain the hardware for Wireless Power Transfer (WPT) to accessories: In addition to being able to be charged by a...
Top Stories 43 Feature

Top Stories: MacBook Pro, iMac, Mac Pro, and iPhone Rumors, Best of CES 2021

Saturday January 16, 2021 6:00 am PST by
This week was sure a busy one in the Apple world, with a flurry of announcements out of CES early in the week followed by a rash of Mac- and iPhone-related rumors later in the week. The new rumors this week included details on updated MacBook Pro, iMac, and Mac Pro models, as well as a few other tidbits, so make sure to read on below to get caught up! Kuo: New MacBook Pro Models to...
iphone 5s black slate

Images of Unreleased iPhone 5s in Black and Slate Shared Online

Sunday January 17, 2021 9:47 am PST by
Twitter user @DongleBookPro has today shared images of a prototype iPhone 5s in an unreleased Black and Slate color. The iPhone 5s was launched in September 2013. The device featured Touch ID, a 64-bit processor, and a True Tone LED flash for the first time. Other new features included a five-element lens with an f/2.2 aperture, a 15 percent larger camera sensor, Burst Mode, and Slo-Mo...
Apple TV Ray Light 2 Triad

Apple Extends Free Apple TV+ Trials Until July

Friday January 15, 2021 10:50 am PST by
Apple is once again planning to extend its free Apple TV+ trial subscriptions, this time until July. When Apple TV+ launched in November 2019, Apple offered free Apple TV+ subscriptions to those who purchased a new Apple device in or after September 2019. Those free subscriptions were set to expire in November 2020, but in October 2020, Apple announced that it was extending free trials...
pat gelsinger intel

Incoming Intel CEO Derides Company's Inability to 'Deliver Better Products' Than Apple's M1 Chip

Friday January 15, 2021 6:17 am PST by
Incoming Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger has said that the company must "deliver better products" than Apple, which he described as a "lifestyle company," and says that Intel's best days are "in front of it" (via The Oregonian). Speaking at an Intel all-hands meeting yesterday, Gelsinger derisively implied that Apple is merely a "lifestyle company," so Intel must be able to surpass its technology: ...
mac pro mini feature

Apple Working on Two New Mac Pro Desktops, One of Which Will Be Reminiscent of Power Mac G4 Cube

Friday January 15, 2021 10:23 am PST by
Apple is developing two versions of the Mac Pro to succeed the Mac Pro that was first released in December 2019, according to a new report from Bloomberg. The first updated Mac Pro is a direct successor to the current Mac Pro and it will use the same design. It may also be equipped with Intel processors rather than Apple silicon chips, and it could be one of the sole machines in the Mac...
macbook pro 16 inch thunderbolt

Bloomberg: Next-Generation MacBook Pro to Offer Improved Displays, Faster Charging Over MagSafe

Thursday January 14, 2021 11:36 pm PST by
Following today's report from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo outlining major changes for the next-generation MacBook Pro models coming in the third quarter of this year, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman has weighed in with his own report corroborating some of the details but seemingly differing a bit on others. First, Gurman shares more details on the return of MagSafe charging to the MacBook Pro, indicating...