Eavesdropper: Finding new roads

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March 1, 2021 2:30 AM

New spatial norms bring endless possibilities for Jio, Facebook and Google

This is also one reason why Google could not collate ground data regarding blockades and one-way roads with its satellite navigation systems.This is also one reason why Google could not collate ground data regarding blockades and one-way roads with its satellite navigation systems.

Just how shackled Indian processes and regulations have been is evident from the fact that a map company would have had to get approvals from concerned departments if it wanted to start a Google Map kind of service until a fortnight ago. Google itself was running with limited operations in the country. While it had enabled street view for most major cities globally, India did not allow this due to security concerns. This is also one reason why Google could not collate ground data regarding blockades and one-way roads with its satellite navigation systems.

The government, last month, opened the space for geospatial navigation. The new guidelines will take effect when the government’s space arm Isro is negotiating deals with Qualcomm and Xiaomi to imbed its NavIC chips, which can rival GPS and other navigation systems. The opening up of the sector will allow Isro to partner with more start-ups, creating services on top of this technology.

Besides, it shall open the field for many new technologies like AR and VR to innovate in Indian conditions. While the guidelines restrict spatial navigation to only Indian companies, they do allow the likes of Google to licence the technology. They also allow drone operators to create navigation systems that can make drone deliveries a reality.

More important, however, are the use cases that may emerge from an AR perspective. The way we approach navigation, at present, is viewing objects on a 2D screen. However, Facebook and others are trying to bring the same experience to AR glasses. So, it makes mapping easier and more intuitive. Imagine being able to recognise shops as you walk past them and then pay for things as you can see prices and information in real-time with a blink of an eye.

Facebook, last year, unveiled Project Aria to test company’s vision. Facebook hopes that its AR glasses will record the world and relay it back to the company in real-time to help it create 3D images and populate its software with more information. The idea is not limited to capturing street views but peeking inside buildings to understand the world better. It can track the location of items and deliver better advertisement depending on what people see and experience while walking on the road. Sort of a mind-reading trick without actually doing so.

Jio, last year, also announced its own AR glasses. The cheaper version is expected to make shopping more interactive; while Jio has not talked about recording data as of now, if it can do so in the future, the company can garner a larger share of advertisements.

Google has had its AR glasses in the business for long now. After the last one’s failure, it can now expand its reach given people are taking to the idea.

But this shall all depend on data exchanges and how much control over data citizens and the government are willing to allow these companies. For now, all have a chance to find new roads.

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