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Graduate student erases pedestrians from Google Street View

Sean Hollister
08.07.10
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We love Google, oh yes we do, but there's no question the company could use some brownie points when it comes to privacy. That's not to say Mountain View doesn't try -- the firm does blur license plates and faces in Street View when it's not unintentionally snooping our WiFi. However, a UCSD graduate student has a more thorough idea: simply make the pedestrians disappear entirely. Arturo Flores' algorithm does just that, determining what to erase and what to keep using two adjacent frames. Because Google's roaming cameras end up taking images of the same subject from multiple angles, the program can grab bits of the background (in this case, the sidewalk, lawn and building) from either side, then layer them over the pedestrian in the foreground to hide him from view. It doesn't yet work on persons who are walking the same direction as the camera, or when there are many in the frame, but these obstacles can be surmounted at a later date. Here's hoping Google's PR team gives Arturo a buzz, so we can finally enjoy architecture without all those pesky humans in the way.

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