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by Mike Zazaian September 4, 2006 - 4:56pm, 1 Comment

Photosynth Photo

Microsoft’s Live Labs have developed Photosynth, an interactive photo-sharing program that promises to revolutionize the way we share and view photos.

The interface itself seems more like a fantastical portrayal of what computer programs will look like in some distant future, but it’s not. By breaking out of the traditional two-dimensional space in which we’re used to viewing and sharing photos, Photosynth offers a dynamic view of a series of photos, more remnisicent of a video game than photo-sharing software.

Photosynth functions by taking a large set of photos of the same location or object, finding their similarities, and establishing spatial relationships to form a fully explorable 3-D model. On the video demo of Photosynth, Microsoft Principal Researcher Rick Szeliski describes the experience of using Photosynth:

You’re basically flown into a three dimensional world which is full of photographs — and you can click on individual photos…Or you can take an automated tour where somebody has pre-scripted it, so they basically show you the things, the historic buildings you want, or the motorcycle you’re trying to buy.

PhotosynthDevelopers at Microsoft have included a number of features in the software that make it largely expandable and versatile. Once “inside” the 3D photo world, the user can “fly” toward or away from images, select individual images, and even search for images similar to the one selected. Another feature allows the user to see the exact point at which a photo was taken inside the reconstructed space. Photosynth will also be able to function as a traditional photo-sharing program, indexing and sorting programs as say, Flickr would, but that’s not where the program shines.

Photosynth works by using a series of visual data algorithms to find specific elements that exist in multiple photos. Once the photos are scanned, they’re linked together in a network and the spatial data is calculated. According to Microsoft, “It’s similar to depth perception—what your brain does to perceive the 3D positions of things in your field of view based on their images in both of your eyes. Photosynth’s 3D model is just the cloud of points showing where those features are in space.”

PhotosynthWhat’s really amazing about the software though is the potential for these algorithms to detect not only similar aspects within your own photos, but photos on the web as well. Imagine being able to load a single photo of a building, then being able to fill all the space around it with photos that others have taken. Theoretically, it could work much like Google Earth, but rather than topographical satellite images, you could get up close and personal — actually walk around the space.

It’s not a working function in the program yet, but it’s certainly possible, and could potentially surface by the time a release date is announced for the software.