What is a Visual Positioning System: Key Features and Applications

A Visual Positioning System (VPS) is an innovative technology that utilises computer vision and machine learning algorithms to identify the location and orientation of a device or vehicle in the real world.

This highly accurate and reliable method has a plethora of potential applications ranging from augmented reality, robotics, to autonomous vehicles.

By employing computer vision algorithms, VPS systems analyse images captured by a camera or another visual sensor and compare them to a database of known locations or features.

This enables devices such as smartphones and drones to determine their position and orientation in the physical world using visual cues, paving the way for a wide variety of potential use cases.

With the rapid advancements in technology and the growing demand for precise location-based services, VPS continues to gain traction, offering a promising and efficient solution for indoor navigation, augmented reality experiences, and various other applications where GPS might not be as reliable.

What is a Visual Positioning System?

A Visual Positioning System (VPS) is an innovative technology that utilises computer vision methods to determine a device’s precise location and orientation. This advanced system has numerous applications, which include augmented reality, robotics, and autonomous vehicles.

Unlike traditional GPS systems that rely on satellite signals, VPS operates based on visual cues. It uses computer vision algorithms to analyse images captured by a camera or other optical sensor, then matches them against a database of known locations or features. VPS can function effectively in both indoor and outdoor environments, providing an edge in versatility over conventional positioning systems.

VPS has become increasingly popular due to the rise of location-based services and the desire for advancing navigation, marketing, and robotics applications. Notable companies like Google have also developed their own VPS technologies, signifying the importance and potential of this field.

How VPS Works

Image Recognition

A Visual Positioning System (VPS) utilises computer vision techniques to analyse images in real-time. By processing the images collected by a camera or other optical sensor, the VPS can recognise key visual features, such as the contour of structures or bridges.

This recognition process typically leverages machine learning algorithms to accurately identify and track these features within the visual environment.

3D Mapping

Once the visual features have been identified, the VPS generates 3D maps by comparing and mapping the captured images to a pre-defined set of reference images with known locations.

These 3D maps create a highly detailed and searchable database of the visual environment. The database is then used by the system to determine the position and orientation of the device.

Localization Algorithms

After the 3D maps have been created, localisation algorithms come into play. These algorithms enable the VPS to determine the device’s current location and orientation within the physical world by matching the captured images to visual cues in the database.

Applications of VPS

A Visual Positioning System (VPS) is a technology that enables devices to determine their location and orientation in the physical world using visual cues, with applications ranging from indoor navigation to retail and advertising.

Indoor Navigation

Unlike GPS, which often struggles to provide accurate location data indoors, VPS is highly effective for indoor navigation.

By using computer vision algorithms to analyse images from cameras or optical sensors, VPS can accurately identify a device’s location within an indoor environment, such as a shopping mall or an airport. This enables users to navigate complex indoor spaces with ease and provides businesses with valuable information about customer behaviour and traffic patterns.

Augmented Reality

VPS serves as a fundamental component in the development of many augmented reality (AR) applications. Precise location information allows AR experiences to overlay digital content onto physical environments with great accuracy, creating interactive and immersive experiences for users.

Example use cases range from enhanced navigation assistance to educational tools that give users contextual information about their surroundings.

Retail and Advertising

Visual Positioning Systems can revolutionise the retail and advertising industries, enabling businesses to gather valuable data about consumer behaviour and preferences.

By understanding the exact locations and movements of customers within a store, retailers can optimise product placement, develop targeted marketing campaigns, and offer personalised promotions or recommendations.

In the advertising sector, VPS can enhance outdoor billboards and other public spaces with interactive and engaging digital content, combining visual cues and location data to deliver highly relevant messages to consumers.

Advantages and Limitations

Accuracy and Reliability

A Visual Positioning System (VPS) uses computer vision to identify a device’s exact location and orientation, offering a higher level of accuracy than traditional GPS systems, especially in indoor and urban environments where GPS signals may be weak or unavailable.

This makes VPS particularly useful for applications such as indoor navigation, augmented reality, and autonomous vehicles.

Dependency on Camera and Lighting Conditions

While VPS offers significant advantages in terms of accuracy, it relies heavily on the device’s camera and the quality of images captured. Poor lighting conditions or obstructed views can affect the system’s ability to match images to a database, potentially compromising the VPS’s effectiveness.

This limitation makes it less reliable in certain scenarios, such as underground areas or in very dense urban environments.

Privacy Concerns

As VPS relies on continuously analysing images from a device’s camera, it raises privacy concerns, particularly when images are transmitted to and stored in a central database for comparison purposes. The potential for sensitive information being captured or misused is a legitimate concern for users.

However, it should be noted that VPS developers have the option to implement measures addressing these privacy concerns, such as anonymising images or using local on-device processing, minimising the potential for privacy breaches.

Comparing VPS with GPS

Functionality Differences

Visual Positioning System (VPS) is an advanced technology that uses computer vision algorithms to determine the location and orientation of a device in real time. Unlike GPS, which relies on satellite signals to pinpoint a receiver’s location, VPS utilises visual cues from a camera or optical sensor to match them against a database of known locations or features.

This functionality allows VPS to perform more effectively in indoor and outdoor environments with limited visibility, such as dense urban areas or inside buildings.

GPS, on the other hand, faces issues when its signals are obstructed by buildings or other large structures. Additionally, GPS might not be as reliable in cases where it gets ‘stuck’ and does not update location while the user is in motion.

Use Cases

Both VPS and GPS have their own unique use cases depending on their strengths and limitations. For GPS, common applications include navigation, tracking, mapping, and geofencing. While VPS can also be used for navigation, it excels in applications where visual context and precision are important.

  • Indoor and outdoor navigation: VPS provides more accurate positioning in environments with obstructed satellite signals, making it a suitable solution for navigating through shopping malls, airports, or other complex indoor spaces.
  • Augmented reality: GPS struggles to provide the accuracy and responsiveness required for augmented reality experiences. VPS, with its reliance on visual data, brings an improved level of precision, enabling more immersive and accurate AR experiences.
  • Autonomous vehicles: VPS can be used for localisation in autonomous vehicles, offering better performance in situations where GPS signals are weak or obstructed, such as urban canyons or parking garages.

Future of VPS

As the world moves forward with technology, the Visual Positioning System (VPS) is gaining significant attention for its potential in enhancing navigation and location-based services. This section will discuss the future of VPS by exploring technological advancements and potential integrations.

Technological Advancements

One of the most prominent areas of research in the VPS domain is its improvement in robustness and resistance to lighting and occlusion issues. This would greatly enhance the system’s ability to function seamlessly in various environments and under different conditions.

Furthermore, the development of more advanced computer vision algorithms and machine learning techniques will significantly improve the accuracy and efficiency of VPS, resulting in better feature detection and recognition in a real-time digital map.

Potential Integrations

One of the most promising aspects of VPS is its potential for integration with various industries and applications. VPS can be incorporated into autonomous vehicle localisation, providing more accurate positioning data that will improve navigation and safety for self-driving cars.

In addition, VPS can be used for the enhancement of indoor navigation systems, contributing to better way finding and assistance within complex buildings such as shopping centres and airports. This would immensely benefit those with visual or cognitive impairments, facilitating easy navigation and a sense of independence.

Lastly, VPS has the capacity to revolutionise the field of augmented reality, offering more precise location data to create interactive and engaging experiences. This could be particularly useful in educational settings or tourism, where users can explore their surroundings and gain valuable insights through an augmented interface.

In conclusion, the future of VPS is brimming with potential, driven by continuous technological advancements and its versatility across numerous industries and applications. As it advances further, the world can expect to see more innovative and practical integrations of VPS into various aspects of daily life.

Picture of Phil


I’m the resident head of comms and partnerships here at Draw & Code. I work on strategy, sales, marketing and other vital areas at a studio that was founded on a dream and has spent the intervening decade trying to make that dream come true. I believe that immersive and interactive technologies are impacting on our lives and being in the epicentre of this industry makes every day a thrill.

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