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Google Will Now Be Able to Zoom in to Within One Meter Nearly Anywhere on Earth


These imagery experts will now be working for the internet giant.

Getting a bird's-eye view can often provide game-changing perspective, and now Google has secured a new level of high-ground imagery with their latest acquisition.

Google confirmed their $500 million purchase Tuesday of satellite company SkyBox, a company known for its “sub-meter” imaging capabilities thanks in part to their 26 mini-satellites currently orbiting the earth.

TheBlaze first highlighted SkyBox in early March, as they upped the game for commercial options to monitor what’s happening down on Earth from space with their remote sensing capabilities and 90-second high-definition videos. The company pitches to a wide variety of consumers, from people who want to monitor crop health on a massive farm to humanitarian aid mission directors and global businesses seeking proprietary data.

s SkyBox's SkySat-1 captured images of North Korea in December 2013. (Image source: Vimeo)

Now, Google plans to use these mini-satellites to keep its Google Maps up to date. In the future, the web giant says it has plans to use the satellites to improve worldwide access to the Internet.

"Over time, we also hope that Skybox’s team and technology will be able to help improve Internet access and disaster relief — areas Google has long been interested in," Google said.

But, as Wired reported, Google has an ability to transform mass quantities of unstructured data into revenue-generating insights. With this new, unprecedented stream of aerial imagery at its fingertips, Google could create an entirely new categories of insights into the workings of economies, nations and nature itself.

Those already distrustful of Google for its email-tracking reputation (among other privacy concerns) will have their suspicions heightened now that the ubiquitous company will now have the ability to watch people who aren't their customers.

So why did Google want SkyBox? Simply put: the 5-year-old company has figured out how to bend physics to their will and master the art of satellite-based imagery:

Taking quality pictures from space is hard. Imagine a camera more than 600 kilometers away from its target, moving at over 7 kilometers per second, trying to see an object less than 1 meter in size. At this distance, the law of diffraction limits the smallest ground object that can be imaged through a telescope based on the diameter of that telescope. Using sophisticated, proprietary manufacturing techniques, our telescopes are able to approach the limits dictated by the laws of physics – enabling higher quality imagery than ever seen before in similarly sized optics.

The SkyBox team reinforced the information sharing theme in their deal announcement.

"Skybox and Google share more than just a zip code. We both believe in making information (especially accurate geospatial information) accessible and useful. And to do this, we’re both willing to tackle problems head on — whether it’s building cars that drive themselves or designing our own satellites from scratch," the company said on its website.

"We’ve built and launched the world’s smallest high­-resolution imaging satellite, which collects beautiful and useful images and video every day," SkyBox said. "We have built an incredible team and empowered them to push the state­-of­-the-­art in imaging to new heights. The time is right to join a company who can challenge us to think even bigger and bolder, and who can support us in accelerating our ambitious vision."

(H/T: Wired)

Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter

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