At the heart of every geek there is probably the secret urge to be some sort of spy, and thanks to Vincent Tao, an engineer at Toronto's York University, we may get our wish. He has invented a mapping and surveillance tool called SAME which can be used to retrieve images "so sharp that geographic co-ordinates typed into a website can reveal the make of a car parked on the street."

"This is real-time streaming technology. It's like (the online directory) MapQuest or the navigation system in your car, but three-dimensional. You'll see a globe, like a virtual Earth, and then you can fly in from outer space and zoom all the way in to a city and even to street level, which will be updated by very nice, high-resolution imagery."

SAME works by taking satellite images of the Earth and combining them with real-time remote sensors that monitor traffic and weather. Apparently, the resolution is 60 cm, which is good enough to determine what model a car is, but falls short of showing the details of a human face, sadly. The technology has raised concerns among lawyers specialising in privacy issues, who believe it could be used to invade people's privacy or to stalk people.