Suck It, Street View, Navteq Maps the World in 3D... With LasersS

Google's Street View team famously photographs all kinds of weird stuff as they drive the world, but Navteq, who basically invented this stuff, just built a mount with seven cameras and 64 lasers to see everything better, in 3D.

Mounted atop a VW Jetta wagon is this crazy apparatus with a 12-megapixel panoramic camera on top and six more cameras pointed in specific directions to pick up signs and other data points. But the best gadgetry—the laser array—is housed inside a rapidly spinning barrel positioned at an angle. By using LIDAR, basically radar but with lasers, they scan everything within view, capturing 1.2 million points of data every second. The result is all kinds of terrain data that is not possible using just cameras.

Suck It, Street View, Navteq Maps the World in 3D... With LasersS

The goal is "high accuracy maps," a deliberately vague notion that ranges from additional information—bridge underpass clearance heights, multilayer cloverleaf navigation and other obvious issues—to super rich 3D environments like the ones you see below. Those aren't CG renderings, in the traditional sense, it's laser-enriched photography.

Suck It, Street View, Navteq Maps the World in 3D... With LasersS

Navteq, a Chicago company owned by Nokia who has been driving around making maps since the first GPS satellites were hurled into orbit, still provides a massive share of map data for web and devices, so the fruits of this tech might get to you sooner than you know.

As for your own personal rig, I sure want one, and my guess is that Google wants one too—if they don't have it already. [Navteq]