Microsoft Live Labs Introduces Photosynth, a Breakthrough Visual Medium
Share more than photos; share an experience.
REDMOND, Wash. — First there was the snapshot, and then came video. Now there is Microsoft Photosynth, a new service from Microsoft Live Labs that goes far beyond how you now view, experience and share photos.
You can share or relive a vacation destination or explore a distant museum or landmark; with a digital camera and your own creativity and inspiration, you can use Photosynth to transform regular digital photos into a three-dimensional, 360-degree experience. Anybody who sees your “synth” is put right in your shoes, sharing in the same sense of exhilaration and wonder that you did at the time, with detail, clarity and scope impossible to achieve in conventional photos or videos.
Imagine yourself beneath the Eiffel Tower or in the heart of Times Square. Now imagine being able to see that exact scene in an amazing new way. With Photosynth, you can look up or down, pan from left to right, zoom in, or pull back to reveal the full sense of where you were. Photosynth provides incredibly realistic close-up detail of a place as seen in the collaboration with National Geographic. Exclusive synths of some of the world’s most renowned locations, such as Machu Picchu and the Parthenon, were created using photographs taken by National Geographic.
An Entirely New Medium
Synths constitute an entirely new visual medium. Photosynth analyzes each photo for similarities to the others, and uses that data to estimate where a photo was taken. It then re-creates the environment and uses that as a canvas on which to display the photos. The potential uses of Photosynth can range from sharing experiences to storytelling and documentation:
•Share experiences. Think about the times you have been in the midst of a beautiful location or having a once-in-a-lifetime experience and wished you could share it with more immediacy and sense of place than still photos or video can capture. Photosynth puts viewers in the center of the moment and in control of how they experience it.
•Tell a story. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a synth composed of 20 or 50 photos makes visual storytelling as rich and compelling as a short story. Synths capture the totality of important moments in time, such as the anticipation and joy of an entire wedding party and guests at the moment vows are exchanged, or the elation of a child scoring a winning soccer goal as the fans cheer.
•Form a community. Synths can bring the best of your digital photos together with the best of everybody else’s. Imagine if you took a trip to Rome with your friends and each of you took photos of the Trevi Fountain. Later, you can tag and upload all of the photos from each person’s camera to create a synth of it. In addition, you can share that experience and your favorite places with others by embedding the synth in your profile on a social networking site.
•Educate or archive. If you want to re-create how you decorated your home for the holidays or how you planted your garden last season, the ability of Photosynth to provide intricate detail allows documentation impossible to achieve with conventional photos.
Getting started with Photosynth is easy:
•To begin, just take a few dozen digital photos — 20 to 300 photos are required, depending on the size of the place or object — with overlap between each shot, from a number of locations and angles.
•Next, download a small, free software application to your computer from http://photosynth.com. This software works in concert with the Photosynth Web site, which is also a free service.
•Build your synth in just two easy steps: First, from the Photosynth Web site, click on Create and select the pictures you want to use. Then, give your creation a name and click on Synth, and Photosynth automatically creates and uploads your synth. In about the same amount of time it would take to upload the pictures to a photo-sharing site, you can enjoy your pictures in dramatic and detailed 3-D.
•The finished synth can be accessed from any Windows XP- or Windows Vista-powered computer with a broadband connection. If you want to comment on other people’s synths or create your own, you’ll also need a free Windows Live ID.
•Once created, synths can also be embedded on Web sites, blogs and social networking sites or virtually anywhere HTML can be edited.
Following this release, the Photosynth team will join MSN — an important step in continuing to improve Photosynth and share the experience with an even wider audience. In addition to letting users create and share synths at http://photosynth.com, over the next year Photosynth will begin to become a key part of the experience for MSN’s 550 million monthly visitors worldwide. Synths will be prominently featured on MSN.com. To create a more absorbing experience for its visitors, MSN will use synths of popular destinations and notable events in many of the places where static images are used on the site today.
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