10 Jul

Mapillary: A Collaborative Crowd-sourced Street Level Mapping Service

MapillaryScreen Shot 2015-07-10 at 9.36.45 AM is a collaborative photomapping service for crowdsourcing street level map photos. Using simple tools like smartphones or action cameras anyone can collect photos that are combined into a street level photo view. Mapillary’s goal is to help people visualize places on earth with an inside perspective, collectively with other Mapillary users. Their mission is to empower the Mapillary community to visually map the world with simple tools and little effort.

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The idea stems from the belief that a motivated person can capture the important and interesting details of any environment and neighborhood better than any single authority using cars can, such as Google Street View. With an individual perspective there is no limit on the level of detail a photographer can add and no limit on how often she can take photos.

Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 9.37.48 AMAnyone can participate by taking photos with the Mapillary app while walking, biking, or driving, and then uploading the photos over WiFi to the Mapillary website. Users can browse the photos and nearby connected photos online or directly in the app, to see where their photos fit into the growing collection. Users can then also embed a photo viewer on their personal website, or use the API to build something from the photo data.

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Individualized mapping may not be as quick and easy as large-scale photo collection services like Google, but they give a better insight into communities, and as services like Mapillary continue to grow, our global online map will only improve in accurately reflecting the beautiful world we live in.

The American Geographical Society reached out to Mapillary for some more background into their mission and story, and CEO and co-founder Jan Erik Solem was kind enough to provide us with the following insights:

“For the future we’re envisioning a world where human powered and human curated data collection beats the professional institutions in terms of relevancy and coverage. Today, smartphones help drive that revolution by putting the tools in every person’s hands. The trick is to make the data collection easy enough so that anyone can contribute, anywhere. We do the magic on the service side to produce something from the photos that gives you a beautiful experience and new ways to explore places using the collective photographs of everyone.

We started Mapillary because even after billions spent and a decade driving mapping vans with cameras, coverage is still only at the most important countries, the most important roads and cities. People in the unmapped parts of the world will have to wait a very long time until their towns or roads get mapped. We give everyone the tools to do it themselves, to choose what areas to cover, and how to photograph them like only a local can.
My home town in Sweden does not have Google Street View or street images from either of the two national mapping providers. It is simply not cost effective for them to capture a town of 10,000 inhabitants on the outskirts of Sweden’s third largest city.
With Mapillary I photographed the whole town in a few days on a bike with my iPhone and now anyone can explore it and use the photos.”


Written by: Christopher Ewell, AGS on July 10, 2015

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