Whether you’re walking, biking or driving, navigation systems can help you get from A to B – as long as you have a GPS signal. This positioning technology usually works fine in both urban and rural outdoor areas, but it is of limited use indoors. To find our way around large and complex buildings like hospitals or airports, we often need to rely on vague signs. Researchers at Technische Universität München (TUM) have come up with a new technology. The NAVVIS system uses visual information and realistic 3D images to point users in the right direction.
The NAVVIS positioning system is primarily based on visual information. The TUM researchers had to develop a special location recognition system for this project. They started by taking photos of a building, simultaneously mapping prominent features like stairs and signs. A smartphone app then lets users view the map images to find their current location. All they have to do is take a photo of their surroundings. The program then compares the photo with the images stored in its database and works out the user’s exact position (down to the nearest meter) and the direction in which they are facing. The app uses arrows to point the way in a 3D view.
NAVVIS is currently being tested at TUM: “With multiple floors and winding corridors, the main campus is something of a maze after several decades of expansion. This makes it an ideal testing ground for NAVVIS,” declares Georg Schroth, who is heading up the project at TUM’s Institute for Media Technology. NAVVIS has other potential uses besides navigation, as his colleague Robert Huitl explains: “The software can also be used for augmented reality applications if you add on special programs. So for instance, visitors to the Louvre would not only be able to locate the Mona Lisa, but also view information about the painting or find directions to other works by da Vinci.” Another possibility would be virtual tours on a PC or smartphone.