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Bill Gates and Masayoshi Son are backing a plan to have video cameras watch every inch of Earth from space

April 18, 2018

EarthNow, a new satellite project with some high-profile benefactors, aims to cover our entire planet in detailed, real-time video surveillance.

The big names: The firm revealed Wednesday it’s backed by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son, and Airbus, although the amount of money committed by each party was not yet clear.

The details: According to the Wall Street Journal, the company plans to launch a network of about 500 satellites weighing 500 pounds apiece. Each one will be equipped with some intense onboard computing power, which EarthNow says it will combine with planetside computers equipped with machine learning to interpret what its cameras capture in real time.

Big brother is watching: Users will be able to get a live picture of anywhere on Earth with only about one second of delay. EarthNow has yet to divulge much in terms of details, including what the resolution of their images will be (kind of important when taking pictures from space). But images will have to be detailed enough to at least be useful for some of the applications they propose, like catching illegal fishing, tracking whale migration, and observing conflict zones.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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