Several months ago I wrote about an exciting new product from Microsoft called Photosynth. That program promised to produce 3D visualizations of a location based on a body of photographs. The concept was that a user could input a location, and such a visualization could be generated from Creative Commons images on Flickr, or some other source. The angles of the images are matched to each other, so one could navigate around the location by selecting various photo frames and perspectives.
The ideal of selecting a location and having it automagically generate a 3D visualization hasn’t been reached, but we’re getting closer. Through the Google Earth Blog and Geobloggers websites, this past week I’ve learned of two efforts in this direction, one using images from Panoramio and the other using images from Flickr. Both are Flash-based, and both have almost identical user interfaces.
First, there is OpenPhotoVR. This one uses the Creative Commons images from Flickr. There is a list of locations that have already been created, including St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow and the Sphinx in Egypt. Users can create their own collections of images. You must manually position the images for a 3D effect, but it works fairly well. I tried it with several of the photos that I took of the Golden Gate Bridge, and pulled in a couple of others that I found on Flickr. OpenPhotoVR also provides an embeddable code, so here are my attempts. Please be patient – this uses some large Flickr images, so it may load slowly. Apparently the embeddable code didn’t work for me. I’m guessing that the images I used were too large. I may try again with smaller images.
The new “Look Around” feature from Panoramio looks very similar to OpenPhotoVR’s system, but is a bit slicker. It’s so similar, in fact, that Vladimir Slepnev, OpenPhotoVR’s developer, speculates that Panoramio might have used his source code. Panoramio’s interface is quite a bit slicker, though. The images in load quicker, and the Flash interface seems a bit more efficient.
According to the Panoramio Blog, 3D views are only available for limited locations where there is a high density of photographs. While that list is already quite extensive, there are a lot of obvious locations missing. Unlike OpenPhotoVR, I didn’t see a way to create your own virtual tours.
Both of these systems look promising. I keep hoping for the ideal that Microsoft’s Photosynth promised, but that seems a long way off. Until then, these will have to do.
[tags]OpenPhotoVR, Panoramio, Look Around, Photosynth, photography[/tags]