November 9th, 2006 | View Comments
After only having seen demos and videos of Photosynth, I tried out the public demonstration today after reading about it in Scoble’s blog. After playing around with it for a bit, I think it is a great product because of the following three reasons:
- Most web-based applications I have seen try to emulate the functionality of an existing desktop application for work in a browser. Photosynth is probably one of the few programs I’ve seen that actually beyond that.
- This program has the potential to be useful for a lot of people. There are scenarios in the real world where a program like this can be used effectively by the non-techy (aka you and me) types.
- Finally, it is always good to see products being released to a larger audience after having them simmering as joint academic/research exercises.
I will elaborate on them in greater detail in the next few sections.
Here is a screenshot of it (click on image for larger view):
The Photosynth link I posted earlier provides a lot of good information on what Photosynth is. Essentially, Photosynth takes existing pictures, finds patterns in them, and allows you to navigate through the pictures like you would in a virtual 3D world. The technology behind how it is able to do this is pretty cool also.
You can find some videos of the behind the scenes details on how the technology works here: http://labs.live.com/photosynth/video.html
For being a browser-based app, the performance is excellent. I don’t know if this version is done in DirectX, but there was no lag or slowdown from running it on my Vista RC2 machine. The program feels responsive, which is a good thing considering the amount of visual data being shuffled around.
More than Eye-Candy
From a practical point of view, I think this software goes beyond visual effects. While users cannot submit their own collections of photos just yet, I can imagine, in the future, tourism and real estate agencies using this software to provide better virtual tours of places and things. Even your average Kirupa can find a good use for this. I have a large collection of photos from around MIT that would serve a better use than just collecting digital dust in my hard drive!
How it Came About
What caught my attention more is how this project came to existence. It is a combination of research done by the University of Washington, Live Labs, and Microsoft Research. This project was also aided with technology Microsoft inherited as part of their acquisition of Seadragon Software.
From my past observation of similar joint projects within and outside MIT, such projects usually produce great results, end up being published at major conferences, but in the end nothing much happens beyond that. It is always great to see a purely academic exercise going beyond the theoretical world and resulting in something real and useful being created in the end.
You can read a bit about the history of the project at their Team Blog.
So, in summary – give this product a whirl at: http://labs.live.com/photosynth/