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Photosynth composing a scene from many photographs

Complex algorithms analyze photos and stitch them together with amazing accuracy

Don't know what something is? Take a photo of it and have Photosynth find information for you
Turning photographs into 3D spaces and more

Imaging technology, in both physical media such as print and in digital have come a long way since the pencil and paper. Consequently, photos and online websites dedicated to hosting and displaying photos and images have also become extremely popular and in some cases made some revolutionary steps forward. Sites such as Flickr, DeviantArt and others are all contributing to moving digital imaging as well as digital photography forward. Interestingly, Microsoft also has something that's sure to stir up the hornet's nest in online and offline visual media.

Microsoft is currently hard at work on a project it calls Photosynth. Currently, the project is under the Microsoft Live development team, and no release date has been planned. However, what is known about Photosynth is that it will attempt to revolutionize the way people view their photo collections as well as change the way people take photos. Incorporating exciting new technology, Photosynth can take a collection of photos, analyze them, and model them into a 3D virtual scene, placing each photo in their perspective-correct position -- users can see where one photo was taken in relation to another photo!

The technology is indeed a big step forward over the traditional slide show. Say for example a photography enthusiast visited Las Vegas. Over the course of a few days, the user has taken several hundred photographs of the Las Vegas strip. With Photosynth, the user can catalog all the photos and build a virtual world out of them, modeling Las Vegas as he saw it. Photosynth allows users to move around in the 3D world, viewing scenes from any angle -- regardless of how the photos were taken. Photosynth's powerful algorithms do all the background work. According to Microsoft:

Each photo is processed by computer vision algorithms to extract hundreds of distinctive features, like the corner of a window frame or a doorhandle. Then, photos that share features are linked together in a web. When a feature’s found in multiple images, its 3D position can be calculated. It’s similar to depth perception—what your brain does to perceive the 3D positions of things in your field of view based on their images in both of your eyes.

Of course, Photosynth can perform traditional photo collection management duties too. Using its analysis engine, Photosynth also allows users to search their collection for "similar" photos, perhaps of a particular person or scene. The possibilities right now sound very exciting.

In February of this year, Microsoft acquired a company called Seadragon Software. Since then, Microsoft has been working Seadragon's imaging technologies into its own projects and Photosynth incorporates a good portion of them. According to Microsoft, Photosynth will allow users to zoom in, pan and fly through any photo or 3D scene without hiccups or pauses -- no matter if a photo is 1 megapixel or 1 gigapixel. Microsoft claims "scaling is near perfect and rapid for screens of any resolution."

Another very interesting and potentially powerful feature of Photosynth is its ability to "DNA" and recognize photos featuring distinct similarities. Microsoft claims that Photosynth will allow users to take a picture of an object, have Photosynth analyze it, and automatically find information about it online. For example, if a user was on a trip and took a picture of the Petronas Towers in Malaysia, they could import it and have Photosynth correctly identify the image as the Petronas Towers and automatically do an Internet search for information on the towers.

With Photosynth you can:

  • Construct a virtual 3D scene composed of several photos
  • Walk or fly through a scene to see photos from any angle
  • Seamlessly zoom in or out of a photograph whether it’s megapixels or gigapixels in size
  • See where pictures were taken in relation to one another
  • Find similar photos to the one you’re currently viewing
  • Find information on an object in a photo
  • Explore a custom tour
  • Send a collection to a friend

Clearly, Microsoft has some very large plans for Photosynth, and it's also clear that Photosynth incorporates some very interesting and powerful technologies. From the looks of it, it also appears that Microsoft is also planning to allow users to construct virtual scenes online, for other viewers to browse "fly" through and experience.

As of right now, Microsoft says that Photosynth will be arriving soon, and we hope so because we can't wait to try it.

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RE: Imagine what will happen !!!
By Ari3s on 9/4/2006 10:44:26 AM , Rating: -1
Another crap from Microsoft...Hurray..

RE: Imagine what will happen !!!
By tacorly on 9/4/2006 11:23:52 AM , Rating: 1
ya, after all, they haven't done enough for the computer industry

I wonder if it will incorporate more tools to play around with the photos themselves, or if you will need to photoshop the images and then import to this program

RE: Imagine what will happen !!!
By AaronAxvig on 9/4/2006 12:38:21 PM , Rating: 2
Here's a small demo of the program's capabilities from their partner Washington State University:

It doesn't have all the features they talk about, but still shows you the power of what they have.

RE: Imagine what will happen !!!
By pcjjman on 9/9/2006 2:01:28 PM , Rating: 2
That's actually the University of Washington, not Wazoo. U-Dub is based out of Seattle's University District, and has an excellent Computer Science program, while Wazoo is in Pullman and is rather unremarkable in that regard. U-Dub is about 30 minutes away from Redmond (Microsoft's home), depending on how bad traffic is across the 520 bridge.

"This is from the It's a science website." -- Rush Limbaugh
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