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An image from Seadragon's demo begins to come into focus

As the image is centered, more detail is revealed

More detail is added without any artifacts or scaling
Microsoft's newest tech purchase might qualify as one of the most intriguing image manipulation browsers yet

Have you ever sat and waited (and waited) while your Google Maps reloads the image as you scroll in?  A new technology called Seadragon might change all that -- at least for Microsoft products. 

Seadragon is a neat little technology where users run a streaming client that allows them to view images of much larger images, constantly scaling and scrolling on demand.  Google Maps uses Javascript to load progressively larger resolution tiles of images.  Seadragon, on the other hand, uses a client to constantly focus and defocus a JPG image on demand, without transmitting the whole image.  As the Seadragon demo shows, the client software focuses the image for an effect similar to what you might experience while looking through an adjusting microscope. 

Seadragon's WMP demo (viewable here) demonstrates a 118 megapixel image dance around the terminal on a 500 kilobit per second connection.  The set of images to the right are screen captures from the Seadragon demo of a high quality scan coming into focus.  The image does not abrubtly scale or rerender. 

Several blogs are reporting that this technology has been picked up by Microsoft, although the official announcement hasn't been made yet -- though another Microsoft employee blogs about the aquisition here.   After Google Maps effectively replaced Microsoft's Terraserver overnight, don't be surprised if we see this technology show up in Microsoft's next generation mapping software. 





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By andrep74 on 1/30/2006 4:52:53 PM , Rating: 2
Well, firstly, it's obvious that what the author meant was ZOOM, not scroll. Yes, Google Earth (acquired from Keyhole) uses a standalone client to render the maps in 3D. It's a sore spot with Microsoft that Google Maps has replaced services such as Mapquest, since Microsoft has been in the mapping business for a lot longer (MapPoint, anyone?); hence, virtualearth is Microsoft's answer.

Unlike Google Maps, when you zoom in or out, the browser attempts to re-scale the images in real-time while the new images are being loaded in the background. On a fast connection, this effect is pretty good, almost seamless. The next step up from this may be the technology mentioned in this article, which allows for dynamic image rescaling. If built into IE7, for example, Microsoft could have a significant performance advantage over Google Maps (but not Google Earth).


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