Microsoft Unveils 3D Photosynth

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August 2, 2006 – Today, Microsoft Live Labs introduced their 3D-imaging technology Photosynth at the computer graphics 33rd Annual International Siggraph Conference in Boston, MA. Hailed as a "hybrid of a slide show and a gaming experience," by Microsoft principal researcher Rick Szeliski in a Microsoft Live Labs press release, users can "walk or fly through a scene to see photos from any angle."

Partnered with University of Washington since January 2006, Live Labs presented the research paper entitled "Photo Tourism: Exploring Photo Collections in 3D" at the conference.

"What if your photo collection was an entry point into the world, like a wormhole that you could jump through and explore," stated Photosynth architect Blaise Aguera y Arcas on the Microsoft Live Labs website.

Sorting through a user’s photo collection, the interactive Photosynth organizes up to thousands of images by linking similar features on different images. The 3D model pinpoints a specific feature based on a cloud of points and calculates the location. For example, as demonstrated on the Live Labs website, Photosynth can match one picture of a sign on St. Peter’s Basilica to the same sign on other images then recreates the scene three-dimensionally. With the Seadragon technology, Photosynth can zoom over billions of pixels on full resolution photos.

The photos can be sourced from different cameras and captured at various times, shooting conditions, and resolutions.

Photosynth can also allow users to combine their images with photos from the web, connecting images from multiple users around the world.

Photo-sharing websites may be the first to adopt the Photosynth technology, said Szeliski to BBC News.

Photosynth is a "collision of the real world and the virtual world," stated Microsoft principal researcher Rick Szeliski in a Photosynth website tour. "People can go and visit…things they’ve never seen before," he said.

A sample Photosynth tour is available at Photosynth will be available for download by the end of this year. Microsoft Live Labs has not released pricing information.

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