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Roving candid camera snaps Thailand's Sin City
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    Roving candid camera snaps Thailand's Sin City

    Roving candid camera snaps Thailand's Sin City
    Stephen Hutcheon
    Sydney Morning Herald
    May 28, 2008

    If you were strolling past the fleshpots in the Thai resort town of Pattaya recently, be warned: you might have been photographed and now, thanks to a company called MapJack, anyone in the world can see what you were doing.

    Based in Hong Kong and Thailand, MapJack is a geo-imaging company that has already published image sets for six cities - four in the US and two in Thailand, including Chiang Mai, and has another five in the pipeline.

    The Pattaya image set was within the past month and includes some photos taken as recently as March.

    Like Google's Street View feature in Google Maps and Google Earth, MapJack uses a fleet of cars mounted with special cameras to capture what it calls Immersive Street-Side Imagery.

    Unlike Google, there is no attempt to fuzz out faces and blur car licence plates or to use the catch-all privacy cloak of lower resolution imagery.

    As MapJack's blurb says, the company wants to give users "an immersive feeling of actually being there" - an effect enhanced by the use of images captured by cameras mounted on backpack-carrying cameramen walking through pedestrian-only zones.

    The result is that, in parts of Pattaya, a coastal resort well known as a destination for sex tourism, the MapJack cameras have recorded some fascinating glimpses of street life.

    Among the narrow alleys and alfresco bars around the red light district of Walking Street and the area known as Boyztown, almost everyone gets his or her photo taken - Western men, Thai bar girls and even the odd transvestite.

    A MapJack spokeswoman, who would identify herself only as Ms Ai-Ling, said the Thai photos were taken a few months ago.

    Asked if there had been any privacy complaints, she replied in en email: "No, surprisingly not. We can blur faces or licence plates on request and it's simple to do."

    The company, which was founded by a Swede and an American in 2006, published its first street-level image set just one week after Google's Street View went live in May last year - something that was "pure coincidence", she said.

    The MapJack feature sits on top of a Google Maps template but it offers a number of different buttons and navigational tools not found on the Google offering.

    This month, Google announced it was rolling out a new technology that would automatically blur any human face appearing in its Street View feature.

    The blurring technology, which will be retrospectively applied to all existing Street View images and incorporated in all future releases of the popular mapping feature, is intended to mollify concerns about the potentially intrusive nature of the service.

    Street View images provide a panoramic, ground-level view of about 40 US cities and their surrounding suburbs.

    Australia is expected to become the first country outside the US to get the feature when it is added to local maps and rolled out before September.

    -------
    Q&A with MapJack spokeswoman Ms Ai-Ling

    Q. Why did you choose two cities in Thailand? Do you have plans for other cities in and outside the US and if so when?

    A. USA to get noticed and as a case study of multiple vehicles covering same location and dense/complex city with many one way streets. Thailand as a case study for tourist area and a foreign country.

    Q. Is your method of capturing the stitching together the images much the same as the one Google uses or is it an improvement ?

    A. Yes, picture acquisition is similar. We put our camera system on the top of the car and drive the city streets. The brains of the system is a program running on a notebook computer in a car which shows the area captured and the area yet to be captured.

    As you drive dots are layed down and regular intervals, so its a bit like [the video game] Pac-Man in reverse.

    We capture images at regular car speed ... 10 megapixel equivalent at 40 mph. We use our same camera system with a backpack for indoors and walking streets, so coverage doesn't stop street-side.

    Q. What do you see as the future of geo-web services such as MapJack and how do you compete with someone as big as Google?

    A. Google offers the plain vanilla version. We have higher image quality and more importantly, we license our technology to companies who wish to have their own street-mapping project under their own control and update at their own. The applications to this technology are endless for real estate, tourism, insurance, emergency response, government, military, etc.

    We are a small privately funded company. We are looking for investment partners to come aboard and take the company to the next level.

    Q. Has anyone raised any privacy concerns with you? Do you have systems to deal with privacy concerns? What if I want a photo removed?

    A. No, surprisingly not. We can blur faces or licence plates on request and its simple to do.

    Q. How long ago were the photos taken? And how often would you intend to update them?

    A. USA imagery in 2007, Thailand imagery a few months ago. We plan to cover new areas first before recovering same.

    This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2008/...654085663.html
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  2. #2
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    Re: Roving candid camera snaps Thailand's Sin City

    'Sin City' mapping images taken offline
    Brisbane Times
    Stephen Hutcheon | May 30, 2008

    Web mapping company MapJack has removed detail-rich images of streetscapes in Pattaya, including those featuring the Thai resort town's many carnal delights.

    The Pattaya pages now shows screens with the message: "There are no images in the selected area".

    The removal of the images - some of which showed Western males mingling with bar girls in the town's red light district - came after smh.com.au published a report into the company's innovative mapping product on Wednesday.

    MapJack has not responded to queries about the changes, but a new entry on its Wikipedia page suggests it is not a technical glitch.

    "On May 28, 2008, MapJack temporarily removed Pattaya imagery from its site, and is planning to edit out the controversial imagerly [sic] prior to reinstating it," the unsourced entry reads.

    MapJacks street level photos are taken by special cameras mounted on cars an in some cases carried on backpacks.

    They are then stitched together using software that creates a 180 degree panoramic effect. These image sets are then overlayed onto maps.

    MapJack's Pattaya images were taken on March 27 and 28 this year, according to the data contained on the photos. Based on the number of closed store fronts and the direction of the light, the photos appear to have been taken in the morning.

    Despite that, there are still large numbers of bars in the red light areas that are open for business as well as more than a few non-local males in the vicinity.

    The quality of the images means it is very easy to identify many of the people captured in the photos - especially those photographed in the narrow back alleys of Thailand's original "Sin City".

    Google Maps offers an almost identical function in its Street View feature. However, unlike MapJack, Google has said it will obscure the faces of people photographed by its mobile camera crews to quell privacy concerns.

    In addition to Pattaya - well known as a destination for sex tourism - MapJack offers streetscape imaging in Chiang Mai and four US destinations. It plans to add further locations in the US and Thailand later this year.

    In an interview conducted earlier this month, a MapJack spokeswoman said the company would, if requested, remove or obscure images, but she said to date, there had been no complaints.

    Although the links to Pattaya map and the images can no longer be found on MapJack, they can still be found on another site called pattayaphotoguide.com.

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