I’m not quite sure how I missed this one. Apparently Microsoft Labs came out with this really cool product in 2006, and I’m just now learning about it. Even though I’m behind the curve, I think it’s worth mentioning here.
Take a photo sharing site such as Flickr. You have thousands of users uploading thousands of pictures every day. Many of those shots are going to be of the same thing. For example, there would be thousands of photos of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, each taken from a different perspective, each showing different details, and each contributing to the overall view of that location. Imagine if you could take all of those photographs and create an interactive 3D composite image of Notre Dame, incorporating each image regardless of quality or camera type. Microsoft’s Photosynth is a first step in that direction.
Photosynth isn’t even in beta testing right now. However, Microsoft has created several image collections that demonstration the concept. Take a look at the image below:
This image is a representation of Ely Cathedral in Great Britain. Each dot represents a photograph from a particular perspective. There is a photostream at the bottom of the screen that shows each individual image. As one navigates through the Photosynth space, different images appear based on various angles and perspectives.
In the image above, you can see orange pyramids which represent interpolated camera angles. In other words, the program predicts where the photographer was standing in order to take that particular picture. You can jump to an image in the photostream, or you can go to a “similarity view”, which groups all of the images that feature a particular view or perspective of the overall location.
Right now the number of locations is limited. Nasa has created several collections which show the Space Shuttle Endeavor in the VAB, on the launchpad, and mated to its 747 transport. The BBC has put together several collections, including Ely Cathedral shown above, Burghley House, and Trafalgar Square, among others. Microsoft itself has created some collections showing historic sites in Korea, a location in the Canadian Rockies, and the Piazza San Pietro in Rome.
Perhaps one of the best demonstrations of Photosynth was given by designer Blaise Aguera y Arcas, co-creator of Photosynth, and the TED conference back in March of this year. In this video, Blaise demonstrates not only the potential for Photosynth, but also demonstrates Seadragon, which is the technology that powers the program.
Eventually, Photosynth will be a web-based product in which users can type in keywords or tags to generate their own collections on the fly from sharing sites such as Flickr. They’re not there yet. I’m sure there are tons of legalities that have to be worked out, and partnerships that must be formed before something like this can really be developed. In the meantime, the demonstration collections are very cool, and are enough to kill hours of time.
[tags]Photosynth, Microsoft, Flickr, photographs, 3D[/tags]