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Student develops software to remove people from Google Street View

Have you played around with Google’s Street View feature, only to find yourself caught on camera at your most unglamorous moment? If so, there may be hope yet, for a computer science student has written a software which serves only one purpose: to make the people in the photographs vanish without a trace.

Read on to find out more.

Google’s Street View is an amazing little utility. Not only can it be used as a tool for obtaining directions or locating various landmarks, it can also serve as the obligatory barrel of laughs, especially if one specifically goes searching for various privacy-related bloopers, like people engaging in some unglamorous activity on public territory.

Of course, the fact that Google’s cameras capture just about anything (and anyone) on the street has opened a can of worms. On its part, Google has offered to obscure out sensitive details such as human faces and license plate numbers on a case-by-case basis, but stopped short of actually removing the information from the images. And that was apparently enough to motivate Arturo Flores, a student from the University of California, to write his own software that actually removes people off Street View images, as shown below.

Flores does not go into much detail about his software, but it has been reported that the program works by identifying and erasing human body forms in such images. The subsequent ‘hole’ is then filled from shots taken “immediately before or after” the one used in the Street View image, to create the impression that the person was never at the location to begin with. It does not always work perfectly though: ghostly outlines and floating objects are sometimes left behind, resulting in some slightly disturbing images which loosely resemble those from the Fatal Frame video game series.

But there is hope yet: Flores’ software is proof that one can actually make people magically ‘disappear’ from Google Street View, and that should be good news for privacy advocates. Furthermore, Flores is reportedly planning on further improving his software to identify more than just individual human forms, to further safeguard the privacy of the average citizen. The only question is how Google will respond to Flores’ software.

Source and images: Gizmag

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