Whereis takes GPS 3D

However, compatible devices, screen sizes and processing power will take some time to catch up

Telstra business unit Whereis has launched a 3D map modeling service, 3D City Models, aimed at bringing another dimension to GPS-based devices.

The service, initially offers 3D representations of Sydney and Melbourne, with Brisbane and Perth to follow. It will be exclusively available on Uniden’s new TRAX 5000 but become available on up to 15 additional devices over the next 12 months.

According to Whereis spokesperson Adrian Tout, 3D modeling will assist users with everyday decision making and orientation through enhanced visual guidance.

“In addition, navigation is moving towards a ‘real-world’ experience (as opposed to vector based graphics on current systems) and this is a large step in that direction,” Tout said. “The more the user feels the system represents their surrounds – the more comfortable they will be using that system.”

Despite the dominance of Google’s Google Maps application, Tout said Whereis’s would be able to compete against the giant, and other mapping competitors through the currency, completeness, and advanced features of its own service.

“For example – with respect to currency – our streets are often far more up-to-date as other sources (such as Google) currently rely on the government for large supply of its content,” he said. “Government maps can sometimes be up to two years out of date simply due to the bureaucratic process within government.”

Tout said local authorities often updated and maintained their own maps which were in turn passed on to state governments for aggregation. All of the states in turn passed data on to the Federal Government which then turned to vendors for publication. Whereis, by comparison, captured data for its maps directly, ensuring speed to market, Tout claimed.

“With respect to completeness, Whereis drives the majority of roads to an exact navigation standard,” he said. “And by standard – I am referring to complex attribution such as grade separations (bridges and tunnels); no right turns; complex junctions; dual carriage ways etc. Google – on the other hand – contains more basic road geometry (e.g. street name, type and numbers) which is not designed for advanced navigation.”

Despite the attention to detail, Tout admitted the successful take up of 3D City Models would, to an extent, be dependent on the quality of Whereis’s search engine and the source map data provided by Sensis.

“The performance of a navigation device is dependent upon a) accuracy of maps; and b) the software algorithm to interpret maps. This is why a Garmin and a TomTom may give you an entirely different route using the same data,” Tout said. “That said, if the map data is missing a street – then your system is of little use irrespective of the software interpreting it. It is important to choose the optimum solution in terms of both map data and software algorithm.

“With respect to the quality of search engine capability, this rests largely on the software developer. For example, a TomTom, Garmin or Navman model will all have very different interfaces and modes of search. As such, your search experience will often depend on how points of interest (POIs) have been categorised by the software manufacture,” Tout said.

By way of example, Tout said that a POI such as the Overseas Passenger Terminal in Sydney could be classified by different manufacturers under tourism, transit or shipping.

Tout added initial uptake could be limited by the fact that about 90 per cent of GPS devices available in the market were unable to render 3D graphics – largely due to insufficient memory, screen size or CPU.

“However, as memory and processing power increases, and becomes cheaper, we believe almost all devices will be capable of this functionality by mid 2010,” Tout said.

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