An interesting article from the Extreme Tech website:
‘Centimeter-accurate’ software-based GPS positioning developed
It’s been a problem for years: consumer-level GPS accuracy, while technically excellent from a historical perspective, hasn’t improved at all. Many of the portable GPS systems on the market, including those in portable navigation devices (PNDs) and in smartphones, are accurate enough for general navigation, but still able to be off by as much as 30 feet — enough to point to a service road instead of a main highway. And it gets worse in what are called urban canyons, downtown city areas where the signal sees interference from clusters of tall buildings.
Now researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have developed a centimeter-accurate, software-based GPS-based positioning system, using existing smartphone GPS chips, which they claim is capable of drone package delivery down to a “specific spot on someone’s back porch.” It could also boost collision avoidance in cars and enable outdoor use of virtual reality headsets. The researchers also claim that when paired with a smartphone camera, it can build a 3D reference map of your surroundings, much in the same way Ford’s LIDAR system and other autonomous vehicles do the same.
“Imagine games where, rather than sit in front of a monitor and play, you are in your backyard actually running around with other players,” said Todd Humphreys, assistant professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics and lead researcher, in a statement. “To be able to do this type of outdoor, multiplayer virtual reality game, you need highly accurate position and orientation that is tied to a global reference frame.”
For now, the system, dubbed GRID, extracts carrier-phase measurements from low-cost antennas and operates outside the phone, the researchers said–but could eventually run on the phone’s internal processor. They also co-founded a startup called RadioSense and are working with Samsung to develop a “snap-on accessory,” which isn’t as exciting as a purely software-based solution–that strikes me as more of an interim idea that won’t sell a lot of units, and recalls mid-2000-era GPS add-on receivers for bulkier smartphones that also didn’t sell well at the time. (Samsung also funded the research to begin with.)
Regardless, the potential is huge if the research team can get it down to software entirely. Currently the system delivers both position and orientation information to less than one degree of measurement accuracy, which is more than enough for real-world VR use, 3D mapping, and collision avoidance systems. “If your car knows in real time the precise position and velocity of an approaching car that is blocked from view by other traffic, your car can plan ahead to avoid a collision,” Humphreys said.
Last month, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced it’s working on a GPS system that doesn’t require the use of satellites, which would also be resistant to jamming and could eventually trickle down to cars and phones as well. We’ve also seen various initiatives toward developing GPS that works indoors, although this too has yet to reach consumer-level devices.
- As mentioned in the above article this really could have all sorts of uses. Good and bad.