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Getting a Virtual Bird’s-Eye View on Things

The Around View Monitor allows you to see your car from above. It’s like there is a camera hanging over your vehicle. How on earth does it work?

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See all around your car
Have you ever heard of the Nazca Lines? Located on the Nazca plateau, these ancient geoglyphs are a series of lines depicting pictures of birds and other animals, as well as trapezoids and straight lines. They are said to date from between 400 and 650 AD.

But even if you know about the Nazca Lines, the chances are you have never seen them in their entirety. That’s because at ground level they just look like lines with a width of 10cm to several meters. But go up in the sky and you can now see they are pictures. This means that until we had airplanes or satellites the only people who could have really seen the Nazca Lines were birds. Professor Masato Sakai of the Yamagata University Faculty of Literature and Social Sciences Nazca Research Institute has been searching for images using space satellites since 2004. Using this perspective from the sky, Professor Sakai has discovered over 100 new pictures.

However, there is a car technology that also lets you obtain a virtual bird’s-eye perspective. It’s the Around View Monitor, which was first introduced globally in the Nissan Elgrand in 2007.

The technology processes imagery taken by cameras on the vehicle, compositing them into video that appears to be shot from above the car. This makes it easier for the driver to check for obstructions around the vehicle in the same way a bird can view the geoglyph.
How to Get a Virtual Bird's-Eye View
First of all, the four cameras to the front, rear and sides of the vehicle take video diagonally above each of their positions. The perspective of the video is then changed into video imagery looking down. By compositing the four video images together, you can see an image that is looking down on the car from right above it.
It can be installed in all kinds of vehicles
So how is it possible to get this virtual bird’s-eye view of the car? Due to the shape of a car, there are always going to be blind spots where a driver cannot see somewhere. With this in mind, in the 1990’s Nissan began working on technology that used cameras, such as a rear-view monitor that used a camera to show what was directly behind you when reversing. The Around View Monitor is a technology that uses this kind of camera.

The fundamental element to the technology is perspective conversion—changing imagery shot from diagonally upwards by wide-angle cameras to a bird’s-eye view. Let’s use an example to illustrate how this works. When you read a book, you don’t typically read it from above but from an upward diagonal angle. The letters on the page will then slightly change shape but you can still understand what is written. Read the book from directly above and you can then interpret the shape of the letter precisely. Perspective conversion is the technology that carries out this transfer of point-of-view from “diagonally upward” to “right above” through computer processing.

In order to create the imagery on the Around View Monitor that lets you see the surroundings of the car as if from above, you first need to attach four wide-angle cameras to the vehicle. Doing this means you can capture almost all footage of the car’s surroundings.*

Next, the technology changes the perspective of the footage from the four cameras and stitches them together. This gives you an overhead video of the car’s surroundings.*

At this time, though, the cameras showing the surroundings are not able to show the car itself from above. To do this computer graphics are added, which then completes the footage displayed on the Around View Monitor.

Being able to see the condition of the vehicle’s surroundings from above makes it easier to understand where the lines of a parking space are or the position of certain detectable obstructions around the car. Of course, this greatly helps both less confident drivers but also even those with many years of driving experience.

The technology was first introduced for the Nissan Elgrand, a luxury MPV vehicle, but it is also currently installed on the Nissan Note, a compact hatchback, as well as in the new Nissan Dayz, the minicar that debuted in June 2013.

In the future, Nissan will be able to install the Around View Monitor into all kinds of vehicles, so more and more drivers will be able to get a virtual bird’s-eye view on things. But that’s not all. On top of checking around the car, Nissan developed Around View Monitor with Moving Object Detection.** This enhanced system features motion detection functionality that can sense moving objects and then warn you on the display. The Around View Monitor and Around View Monitor with Moving Object Detection continue to improve and evolve as two of the technologies for next-generation mobility.

*Around View Monitor is a parking aid/convenience feature. It cannot completely eliminate blind spots. It may not detect every object and does not warn of moving objects. Always check surroundings before moving your vehicle. It is not a substitute for proper backing procedures. Always turn to check what is behind you before backing up.
**Around View Monitor with Moving Object Detection cannot completely eliminate blind spots and may not detect every object. MOD operates at vehicle speeds below 5 mph. Always check surroundings before moving your vehicle. It is not a substitute for proper backing procedures. Always turn to check what is behind you before backing up.