Researchers from Microsoft and the University of Washington have developed a photo-browsing system that combines thousands of online images into a 3-D model, which gives viewers the sensation of smoothly gliding around the scene from every angle.
The prototype technology, dubbed Photosynth, can be previewed here, and will be available for download later this year.
Noah Snavely, a graduate student in the department of computer science and engineering at the University of Washington, and associate professor Steven Seitz collaborated with Microsoft researcher Richard Szeliski to develop the technology that will ultimately enable the Photosynth prototype. Their work combined both new and established techniques in computer vision; image-based modelling and rendering; image browsing, retrieval and annotation; and key-point detection and matching to present unstructured collections of photos in a 3-D perspective.
As people navigate around the model with their mouse and click on specific photos, the system smoothly transitions between images to create an evocative sense of movement, the researchers explained.
"It's like a hybrid of a slide show and a gaming experience that lets the viewer zoom in to see greater detail or zoom out for a more expansive view," said Szeliski, manager of the Interactive Visual Media Group within Microsoft Research.
"This is a revolutionary way for people to interact with photos in a 3-D context that more closely resembles the place where the images were captured."
The first prototype to come out of Microsoft Live Labs, Photosynth is based on a research paper titled, Photo Tourism: Exploring Photo Collections in 3D, which is one of 17 papers Microsoft Research will present at this year's SIGGRAPH conference.
"Photosynth is the first of many upcoming examples of Live Labs' ability to take basic research from Microsoft Research and the academic community and rapidly create prototypes of new online services," said Dr. Gary William Flake, Microsoft technical fellow.
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