it comes to mapping the real world on computers, University of Southern
California computer scientist Cyrus Shahabi takes his work to a whole
first glance, his maps contain the typical landmarks we’ve become
accustomed to seeing on Yahoo or Google Maps. If you look a little
closer, you’ll see the maps are also pulsing with images of moving cars
and scenes of bustling people, all in real time. It is part of a new
computing concept called “geo-immersion” that blends the real and
virtual worlds together.
idea was to capture a real world environment and then render it
virtually so it feels like you are in that area. So you are immersed in
that geographical area as if you are in the real world,” says Shahabi
who also serves as the director of USC’s Integrated Media Systems
Center, a graduated NSF Engineering Research Center (ERC). Support from
the National Science Foundation (NSF) has kept the center at the
forefront of multimedia and Internet technology. Shahabi says what makes
geo-immersion unique is its capability to mesh existing information
databases and social networks, and integrate them with maps.
Geo-Immersion is the foundation of several applications Shahabi has in
of them is called the “clever transportation” project. It takes a
Google map of Los Angeles and adds a few colorful characteristics. Roads
that are clogged with slower moving traffic are colored red and roads
where traffic is moving faster are colored green.
historical patterns are created based on real-time data that we
collect,” says Shahabi, looking at a full-screen map of LA County. “[It] shows how the trend of traffic changes over the course of time.”
Depending on the time of day, Shahabi says, the program changes the
“fastest path” because it takes traffic into consideration, a trick that
Google Maps doesn’t have.
is also working on another prototype application called iCampus. It
gives users on the USC campus real-time locations of their Facebook and
Twitter friends as well as a look at building floor plans and energy
usage inside campus buildings.
has numerous applications including “tram tracking.” Shahabi says USC
trams are outfitted with a GPS unit that transmits a signal every five
seconds. “One of my undergrad students built an iPad application on top
of iCampus where, from your house, you can check what time the bus gets
to the closest stop,” says Shahabi. The application, iCampus, has the
capabilities to be tailored to other campuses or even small cities.
application through Geo-Immersion, called iWatch, could also benefit
law enforcement as an enhanced surveillance tool. It includes facial
detection ability that can follow a person from location to location.
All of the Geo-Immersion applications are bringing the virtual and actual world a little closer together.