Pattaya Daily News

06 November 2012 :: 17:11:12 pm 68266

Computer Whiz Rivals Google with ‘Street Views’ Map

Inspired by Google’s “Street View” maps, a Bangkok university computer engineering student created his own “Bangkok Street Views” map on the Internet. He spent 50,000 baht on his solo project that took him three years. Earlier, Google launched its “Thailand Street Views” map in March.
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The “Bangkok Street View” photographic map was sparked by a visit to a computer fair three years ago, said Mr. Natchanon Wetchasit, a student of computer engineering faculty at Kasetsart University.

“I went to the computer fair in late 2009, at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center, and I saw the executive of Google, and they talked about the map application, and Google Street View,” Mr. Natachanon said. “There was someone who asked about having Street View in Thailand, and he answered that it would be soon — so I thought I should make Street View, and don’t have to wait for Google.”

At the time, Google said making a street view map was impossible for ordinary people, because it required large numbers of workers, huge calculating computers and a huge budget, high technology, and several data base systems.

But Mr. Natachonon began to think it was possible for someone like himself to create a street view map. “That time there was free Street View from foreigners such as MapJack, so I began studying the behavior of the system and the possibility of developing it seriously,” he said.

So Mr. Natachonon began developing his software program about three years ago. At first he planned to be finished in late 2011, but he could not photograph and edit everything in time because he had limited equipment. There were also delays in programming because it was a big task, and he had to write the software by himself.

But his father helped him with the photographing and editing, and then he let the computer generate panorama pictures all day. However, the software that he used to make the street view was not in the Internet, so he had to develop new software that he used to support the project.

Also, the development of 3D applications on the Flash Platform (Flash) was a new subject for him, so he had to develop it slowly over three years, because of the time required by his other studies at the university.

For the photography, Mr. Natachanon had only one DSLR camera, so the photography of the panorama was a labor-intensive task. In every walking area, he needed to photograph at least 10 pictures while moving in a panoramic circle, with a maximum limit of 55 pictures. He also had to shoot from a high angle. For plotting the panoramic sights, he would use sight estimation from the picture that had been photographed, so he needed to use quality labor and sophistication to make the quality images.

For the steps to shoot each location, he had to plan and study about the place he wanted to photograph, and he had to survey and then plan the routes, and mark the spots to photograph on a paper map, then travel to the spot and take pictures and compose them to be 360 degree panoramic pictures, by using the panorama pictures-making program.

Then he had to take the images to estimate and match to the tariffs in the map program that he had created. He then connected every spot to follow routes, and arranged every spot to the directions , and wrote the program to show the images, and designed the website, and then put them all on his website.

As for the costs for his project, he said that normally a big outfit like Google would spend several hundred thousand dollars or more for special photography equipment, the accuracy route making system, and numerous human resources, as well as a highly sophisticated computer for panorama image estimation.

But Mr. Natachanon did not have these resources, and had only his camera and computer to work with. So he had to get the maximum benefit from his equipment. Almost all of his budget was used in upgrading the computer system to support the work of processing panoramic images faster. For the panoramic images, connecting them in the beginning would take 1 hour, but he had streamlined the process down to just 25 minutes. Mr. Natachonon estimates that he spent a total of 50,000 baht for his 3-year project.

Users can visit Mr. Natachonon’s site at: www.bangkokstreetview.in.th through the computer or tablets that have Flash Player program. Users can push and walk through the street in street view, and can choose the important spots that they wanted to see from the menu above. Or if they need the convenience to use it as a map, they can catch the orange doll on the map to place it where they like and go walking.

The project covers the main areas and points of interests of nearly 120 locations for a total of approximately 2,000 points that could be walked. The images were taken in inner areas of Bangkok, Dusit , Phra Nakorn, Phaya Thai, Samphantawong, and some of Thonburi. In the future, Mr. Natachanon would like to expand with more street view maps into the ancient communities and crafts, and connect to Siam and Hualampong.

As the owner of his Street View map, Mr. Natachonon hoped to do it for society and the nation, and it isn’t meant for commercial purposes. He just wanted to return the favor to his nation, and to use his knowledge to make something useful.

Mr. Nattanon hopes that users will get benefit, such as foreigners who can see the art, architectures, and wall art on the Thai buildings that they see in the Google street view, and they can access it from everywhere in the world. There was also support for many languages, and the coverage for people around half of the world.

Also, Thai people could use his site to “travel” from their computers, and students could use the website to study arts cultures and architectures, instead of traveling to see the real thing. Especially for the students in the rural areas of Thailand, it could reduce inequality in education in rural areas.

Category : Thailand News

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