Need to buy a gift for somebody who loves technology but you can’t afford the big ticket items?
Microsoft Photosynth is a technology that automatically stitches together digital photos.
- Incredibly cool
- No OS X support
Microsoft Photosynth is an exciting tool with some genuinely interesting applications and features. Best of all, the pace of change we've already seen, and the depth of ambition claimed by the development team suggests that Photosynth has a lot of potential.
Developed by Live Labs — Microsoft's applied research arm — Photosynth automatically stitches together digital photographs to create a somewhat abstract but high-resolution three-dimensional re-creation (dubbed a synth) for the world to explore. And though ready-made examples have been previewable for several months now, Photosynth.net has finally thrown its doors open for everyone to upload up to 20GB of photos.
The 3-D photo reconstructions suggest an improbable three-way love child of a David Hockney collage, Apple's QuickTime VR, and Microsoft Research's excellent WorldWide Telescope. But it's one of the more mind-blowing things to appear since Google Earth.
A new window to the world
Assuming that the launch goes smoothly, Photosynth will have some dazzling collections for visitors to dive into right away, thanks to such early testers and partners as National Geographic and NASA. Some of our favourite synths are of the Piazza San Marco, Machu Picchu ruins, Venice Grand Canal, Taj Mahal, Grassi Lakes, Stonehenge, the US National Archives, and Dale Chihuly glass sculpture exhibits.
Some of the detail shown in the latter three collections wouldn't be possible to see if you were there in person. Speaking of amazing (and seemingly impossible) possibilities, Photosynth has already been used for this episode of CSI New York.
- A bottom-right icon allows you to have a synth occupy your entire browser window. You can improve the view further by putting your browser into full-screen mode with your F11 function key.
- You can zoom in and out with your mouse wheel; the zoom area is based on your mouse location.
- The tilde (~) key toggles the grid view mode; this allows you to see the entire photo collection that forms any synth. - The spacebar lets you jump to the next photo in the spatial tour.
- You can also navigate a synth gamer-style, with the 'w s a d e c' keys.
To use Photosynth.net, you'll need to install two small apps: a browser plug-in supporting Firefox 2 or 3 and Internet Explorer 7, and the Photosynth desktop application for uploading photos. You'll also need to be running Windows XP or Windows Vista, and have a PC configured with at least 256MB of RAM (1GB is recommended) and at least 32MB of graphics memory. Mac users who wish to try the site can run it under Boot Camp, but OS X isn't supported (yet…), nor is Parallels or VMware Fusion.
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