Facebook opens AI tool on Map to chart the uncharted

The newly found phenomenon of making maps available on phone has helped us all enormously. But in unexplored territories like rural Bangladesh and Indonesia, there are millions of miles of roads that are still uncharted territory.

Facebook opens AI tool on Map to chart the uncharted
Facebook opens AI tool on Map to chart the uncharted

Facebook opens AI tool on Map to chart the uncharted

California: The newly found phenomenon of making maps available on phone has helped us all enormously. But in unexplored territories like rural Bangladesh and Indonesia, there are millions of miles of roads that are still uncharted territory. Hence, wanting to provide a solution, social networking company Facebook has announced to open its Map with AI tools to help the entire OpenStreetMap (OSM) community add the unmapped areas.

Facebook has announced that it is opening its AI tool on Map to the entire OSM community, allowing anyone to use the tool to identify areas in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda. Eventually, the company hopes to expand its mapping tool to cover the entire world.

Map with AI relies on computer vision to spot patterns in satellite imagery. The system identifies possible roads and highlights them in OSM's platform. This can be trickier than it sounds. A road in Tanzania, for example, looks very different from a road in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Roads can vary in size and color, be obscured by trees, or resemble a dry riverbed or other landmark.

To solve these issues, Facebook built a deep neural network model that recognizes roads on satellite images with a resolution of two square feet per pixel. This level of detail allows the neural network to spot unpaved roads and unpaved pedestrian walkways, and distinguish them from a regular wall or riverbed. Human volunteers on OSM are used for final verification.

Along with Map with AI, the company also unveiled its RapiD editor. The tool auto-detects roads from satellite imagery and includes additional data integrity checks. Meant to be an improvement of OSM's current iD editor, RapiD allows mappers to quickly add and edit new roads.

Facebook's venture into cartography isn't new -- or entirely altruistic. The company has stated that its eventual goal is "to map the entire world", expanding rural internet access in developing countries and reaching more users than ever with its services. Back in 2016, it released high-resolution maps for 23 countries that estimated population counts using census data. The company earlier this year unveiled population-density maps of the majority of Africa, aimed at helping relief agencies. While such efforts are billed as humanitarian, they also help the social media giant better target its billions of users.