Photosynth 3D image browser gets first real world app

  • Redmond (WA) – BBC is the first company to test a commercial use of Microsoft’s Photosynth 3D image browser: Photosynth connects images in a three-dimensional way to enable interactive sightseeing on the PC screen.

    Photosynth has been available as trial on Microsoft’s Live Labs site for several months and while the BBC application is still considered a “time-limited technical trial”, it is the first time that Microsoft is able to show off the potential of the application: Much like Hypertext is able to connect documents on the Internet, Photosynth links individual images to create on large image sketch that consists of hundreds of clickable images.

    BBC uses the technology for its television series “How We Built Britain” to create an interactive sightseeing tour that builds on broadcasted content, but allows viewers to browse through images based on their interest.

    Photosynth, was developed by Microsoft in collaboration with scientists from the Graphics and Imaging Lab (GRAIL) at the University of Washington. The technology, which is also known under the name “Photo Tourism” uses a number of pictures to create a sketch of a three-dimensional landscape. While the pixel structure is far from being able to provide a photo-realistic image, the outlines provide enough outlines to give the user a sense of the environment. Photosynth highlights the areas and angles with available pictures and allows users to travel to that destination and retrieve a photo with more information. The software also supports zooming and panning.

    The “How We Built Britain” series includes imagery of Ely Cathedral, Burghley House, the Royal Crescent, Bath, the Scottish Parliament buildings and the Blackpool Tower Ballroom. Historical and user-submitted images will be integrated into the “synths” to contrast how people interacted with the locations in the past and present, Microsoft said. By clicking and dragging their mouse, visitors to the site will be able to explore a building, zooming in to see the smallest decorative detail, or zooming out and panning through 360 degrees to place the building in a wider context.

    The content is available for free. Photosynth is offered as a free 5.5 MB download for Internet Explorer and Firefox.