Boulder: Bird’s Eye Imagery & New State-of-the-Art Facility (by Nathan)

The Bing Mobile group in Boulder, Colorado is constantly
developing new areas to bring relevance to search through processing and
interpreting imagery.
When we last met, I had
outlined the structure
of our team and operations
in Boulder, CO.  This time around, I’d like
to take some time to go a little more in depth on one of our products: Bird’s
Eye imagery. 


One of
the challenges our site met in the previous year was the creation of a new map
layer that is based on our Birds Eye imagery.  Our Bird Eye imagery is
extremely popular with end-users because its high resolution, oblique
look-angle, and four look-directions provide them with great context for many
spatial tasks like looking for a new house or planning a vacation. 
Unfortunately, a single oblique image covers only a few city blocks in area, which
means one can’t “step back” and see a big picture, oblique view.  So, to
improve the user experience, we created a new stitched oblique concept. 
By stitching together the individual oblique images into a mosaic, we’ve given
our users the ability to explore oblique imagery of large areas, from city-wide
overviews down to a local subdivision.  Since we have a single mosaic,
panning and zooming is also continuous and smooth, making for a great user


were many challenges to pulling this off.  First, the scale of the problem
is enormous and involved tracking and managing tens of millions of individual
image frames and several petabytes of data.  Second, the source imagery
has to be precisely registered to the correct ground location (typical industry
techniques that work for aerial imagery don’t work as well for oblique
imagery).  Third, matching the color between source frames to give the
mosaic a uniform appearance was problematic; imagery taken in different
seasons, under different light and atmospheric conditions, make color balancing
a challenge.  However, over a two-year period, our team of engineers was
able to overcome these technical challenges.  They were able to turn a
very labor-intensive, error-prone process into a mostly-automated system that
is capable of producing thousands of square kilometers of stitched Bird’s
Eye imagery every day.


addition to working on exciting products like our Bird’s Eye imagery, we are
about to move into a brand new state-of-the-art facility in downtown Boulder,
CO, just footsteps away from the
Pearl Street Mall.  This space was designed with the Bing Mobile team
in mind, leveraging common space throughout the building for collaboration and
building technology solutions that not only allows us to work from anywhere but
to view our imagery in optimal ways, capturing the Bing Mobile ethos in our
design.  As well, we are deploying this first Microsoft microsite facility
Longmont which will host highly efficient containerized compute
modules for image processing; the Boulder team lead the industry in deploying
containerized compute in Colorado in 2007.