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Facebook acquires crowdsourced mapping company Mapillary

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FILE PHOTO: A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen placed on a keyboard in this illustration
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By Katie Paul

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Facebook Inc on Thursday acquired Swedish mapping technology company Mapillary, which collects images from tens of thousands of contributors to build immersive and up-to-date maps, the companies said.

Mapillary Chief Executive Officer Jan Erik Solem, who founded the Malmö-based startup after leaving Apple Inc in 2013, said his company's technology would be used to power products like Facebook Marketplace and supply data to humanitarian organizations.

Solem had sold a facial recognition startup, Polar Rose, to Apple in 2010.

Facebook confirmed the transaction, but declined to disclose the terms. Mapillary did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mapillary aims to solve one of the most expensive problems in mapping: keeping maps updated with "street level data" about signs, addresses and other information that can be observed from the road.

Big companies such as Apple and Alphabet Inc's Google solve the problem by sending out fleets of vehicles outfitted with cameras and other sensors to gather images.

Mapillary crowdsources the images, ingesting pictures contributed from smart phones and other types of cameras, and uses "computer vision" technology to stitch them together into a three-dimensional map.

Many consider that information key for self-driving car technology, although a Facebook spokesman said it would also underpin Facebook products under development like augmented reality glasses and virtual reality headsets.

(Reporting by Katie Paul; Additional reporting by Jane Lanhee Lee; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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