Augmented RealityNews

Sturfee Taps Satellites for City-Sized Augmented Reality Applications

Entertaining and informative augmented reality applications may soon take over a city near you.


Augmented reality applications have exciting potential. While technology is getting bigger through AI, the IoT and 5G internet, AR has so far remained largely for small-scale, individual experiences. The future that many AR advocates imagine would require “world-scale AR.” That’s exactly the business that Sturfee is in.

What Is Sturfee?

Sturfee is a computer vision/AI solutions company founded in 2015 by Dr. Anil Cheriyadat and Dr. Harini Sridharan. They had previously worked with groups from NASA and NOAA to Niantic and Google to the Department of Energy.

Their idea was – and remains – to use satellite images to transmit information to mobile devices.

Sturfee augmented reality - business - starbucksThat’s something Google has already been doing. However, that information is transmitted in 2D formats rather than augmented reality applications like those made by Sturfee.

Using augmented reality applications could allow multi-person interactions as well as change the ways that we see navigation.

While Sturfee has been working on their City AR technology for around four years, they’ve made their first big announcement just this month. The company is celebrating a licensing agreement, which will bring Sturfee’s Visual Positioning Service (VPS) to all major metropolitan areas, with a Japanese telecommunications company KDDI.

As we move toward the 5G era and address spatial computing, we will create a new communication scene and with Sturfee we will build a variety of new experiences that will thrill our customers,” Yasuhisa Yamada, KDDI’s Director of Personal Business Sector said in a release shared with ARPost. “We envision digital signage and navigation linked to location information, as well as advertising, entertainment, art and education.”

What Do They Do?

Sturfee uses satellite images of cities to create “thumbprint maps.” So far, 15 cities around the world have their maps created using Surfee’s AR City platform.

When a user points their mobile device, Sturfee uses their surroundings to identify their location within the city. Between the camera view and the information from satellite images, Sturfee then creates a 3D rendering of the user’s surroundings. This rendering is then used to place and scale digital artefacts.

This allows larger-than-life interactive digital models to populate or overlay entire cities. For example, they just recently worked with an AR app developer Happy Giant to create a demo for San Francisco. Sturfee also claims to be able to create these digital maps much faster than competitors.

With our technology, we can create [a] machine-readable version of San Francisco in just a week, and detect and update any city changes even quicker,” Cheriyadat said in the release.

sturfee - AR applications

How Well Do They Do It?

If you have your finger on the pulse of AR – and read ARPost, Sturfee’s augmented reality applications may sound familiar. The other big 5G city-sized AR player is Scape Technologies. They’ve recently had their name in the papers for their Dallas Cowboys demo with Nexus and what they called the world’s first massively multiplayer AR game. They have more name recognition than Sturfee, but how do they really compare?

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Scape is also making an AR map of the world one city at a time but their approach is different. Rather than using satellite images, Scape uses – or creates – collections of 2D images. This works but it works slowly. In three years they’ve only completely mapped one city – their home base of London.

Of course, competition doesn’t have to be a bad thing. We don’t need to pick a winner. With companies like these making augmented reality applications to make our lives easier and more fun, we’re the winners.

Jon Jaehnig
the authorJon Jaehnig
Jon Jaehnig is a freelance journalist with special interest in emerging technologies. Jon has a degree in Scientific and Technical Communication from Michigan Technological University and lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. If you have a story suggestion for Jon, you may contact him here.