Sunday, October 07, 2007

Photosynth - a breath-taking glimpse into the future of photo viewing

Thank you to Ruth Morton for a blog entry mentioning one of the most spectacular software developments occurring at Microsoft these days. If you go to Microsoft Live Labs to their Photosynth web site, be prepared to be amazed! In fact, take a few minutes right now and watch what Ethan Zuckerman, founder of Facebook, said was "Perhaps the most amazing demo I've seen this year." -available here). 

Imagine all the world's photos synchronized and organized within a 3D interface that can cater to both those who prefer a slide-show automated demonstration and to those who prefer the self-directed, virtual game-world ambience. OK, so if imagining all the world's photos is a bit too grand, simply imagine your own photo collection tagged by similarities and organized according to the Photosynth model. Now you can launch your photo collection into a 3D space and navigate, zooming, re-organizing, panning, detailing, re-arranging the photos according to likeness, etc. In effect, you've completely renovated your 2D photo collections into a 3D virtual world with emergent characteristics greater than the sum of the individual parts.

Emergent characteristics of a Photosynth collection are something you have to experience directly to fully appreciate. Imagine, for instance, that you were able to assemble all the photographs of yourself for your entire lifetime. Then imagine tagging those photographs by subject, time, place, perhaps even mood. Then the photographs are processed within Photosynth into a single panorama whereby you can rearrange instantly the way you view the collection with all the attendant capabilities of zooming, panning, and moving around objects.

For a few seconds, you view your life chronologically; then you see a friend in one of the photos and you wonder, "what about my other friends at that time of my life?". So, as long as you've tagged images of friends as "friends", you can instantly rearrange the collection according to the similarity of the photographs to "friends". Or, perhaps you want to view family connections, or locations and events.

The possibilities are truly staggering. But again, you've got to experience this to appreciate the possibilities. If you have sufficient graphical capabilities on your computer, you can download and install the Photosynth trial and then view the online collections which include NASA, buildings of Great Britain, a South Korean palace under reconstruction, the Gary Faigin art studio, the Piazza San Marco in Venice, the Grassi Lakes in the Canadian Rockies, or the Piazza San Pietro in Rome. Truly spectacular!

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