What’s underneath your Google Map?

…what’s significant about the photographs in Street View is that Google can run algorithms that extract the traffic signs and can even paste them onto the deep map within their Atlas tool.
Think of them as the early web crawlers (remember those?) going out in the world, looking for the words on pages. That’s what Street View is doing. One of its first uses is finding street signs (and addresses) so that Google’s maps can better understand the logic of human transportation systems. But as computer vision and OCR improve, any word that is visible from a road will become a part of Google’s index of the physical world.
Later in the day, Google Maps VP Brian McClendon put it like this: “We can actually organize the world’s physical written information if we can OCR it and place it,” McClendon said. “We use that to create our maps right now by extracting street names and addresses, but there is a lot more there.”

Full, excellent story. Privacy hawks find this frightening. Or so I hear. I find it mostly exciting.