Photosynth – utterly, utterly amazing

It’s not often – if at all – that I post purely tech on here but deep down I think I might be a geek, because I’ve just been blown away by a video demo of Photosynth.

The first ‘wow’ factor is that you can zoom right into images – and when I say zoom, I really mean zoooooom. You know that scene in Blade Runner where Rick Deckard zooms in on a photo and just keeps going further and further in? Photosynth does that – and how. You can see an entire book and zero in seamlessly, watching the pixels turn into pages, then paragraphs, then sentences, then suddenly an entire, perfectly resolved character fills your screen. As Blaise Aguera y Arcas, the presenter, says, you’re only limited by the resolution of your monitor. So Photosynth is compositing and rendering images to your screen in real-time and absolutely smoothly. It works for maps and it works for photos – basically, any image or, for that matter, image-set.

And, as Blaise himself says, this is the real punchline: when you let it loose on the web, Photosynth can intelligently search for images and composite them together, effectively creating semantic links between images. So, point it towards Flickr, type in ‘Notre Dame’, and the next thing you know it has rebuilt Notre Dame, in three dimensions from photos – any photos, all photos – of the cathedral. You can walk around it and it just chunks the photos and overlays them to build the image. It really is amazing to see how Photosynth grabs and composites the images given the viewer’s perspective.

How about setting it loose on astronomical images, recreating planets and solar systems that you can walk around? What about pointing it towards a medical image bank and recreating human beings, inside and out? There’s a theory that everything which can be digitised, has been digitised – maps, blueprints, plans, diagrams – everything. Imagine if Photosynth could crawl the web and grab all of this, creating a spatial, semantic representation of the real world.

And get this – it’s a Microsoft project. Even Blaise looks taken aback that he’s receiving such applause as a Microsoft employee! Could it be that Microsoft has a killer web app on its hands?

One aspect of the intakes of breath and standing ovation concerns me. Photosynth is definitely an awesome (geek word) project, but I’m sure there are equally as clever systems out there that you can’t demo as readily. Photosynth is great because it looks great, and I doubt you could wow people by showing them, say, a sophisticated medical monitoring application or, for that matter, Onalytica’s influence analysis system.

But that’s splitting hairs. I really can’t add any more but say, go and watch the demo then preview the software. If you’re even slightly geeky, you will love it.

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6 thoughts on “Photosynth – utterly, utterly amazing

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