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Photosynth integrated into Microsoft Earth

By Damir Beciri
2 June 2009

photosynth.jpgMicrosoft integrated Photosynth, technology that enables you to automatically stitch groups of photos together into one big interactive 3D viewing experience, with their mapping service Virtual Earth. Microsoft claims ‘hundreds of thousands’ of users have already used Photosynth – which was released to the public back in August 2008 – and uploaded more than 12 million photos in 350,000 synths.

The next step is the usage of Silverlight technology in order to help the users port the Photosynths to Virtual Earth, running on Macs and PCs alike. Microsoft Silverlight is a cross-browser, cross-platform, and cross-device plug-in for delivering media experiences and interactive applications for the Web. In addition to the integration the latest release of Photosynth has features like commercial licensing, privacy controls and one-click highlighting for viewers to easily explore synths.

In simple terms, Photosynth allows you to take a bunch of photos of the same scene or object and automatically stitch them all together into one big interactive 3D viewing experience that you can share with anyone on the web. Photosynth is a potent mixture of two independent breakthroughs: the ability to reconstruct the scene or object from a bunch of flat photographs, and the technology to bring that experience to virtually anyone over the Internet.

Using techniques from the field of computer vision, Photosynth examines images for similarities to each other and uses that information to estimate the shape of the subject and the vantage point each photo was taken from. With this information, we recreate the space and use it as a canvas to display and navigate through the photos.

The Seadragon technology is used in order to manipulate the vast amaunts of data: delivering just the pixels you need, exactly when you need them. It allows you to browse through dozens of 5, 10, or even 100 megapixel photos effortlessly, without fiddling with a bunch of thumbnails and waiting around for everything to load.

Photosynth is really two remarkable technical achievements in one product: a viewer for downloading and navigating these complex visual spaces and a “synther” for creating them in the first place. Together they make something that seems impossible quite possible: reconstructing the 3D world from flat photographs.

There are many tourism agencies and businesses like real estate or construction companies from around the world which will benefit from showing off whatever they can show off on a digital version of our planet. However, potential clients have to install and use both Virtual Earth and Silverlight on their computers. The Seadragon and Photosynth show great potential which is yet to be shown in future.

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