Monday, September 01, 2008

The Coolest Thing You'll See Today

I've been following Microsoft's Photosynth project for a while now. I first heard about it around a year ago while watching the video below. While I do recommend watching the 8 min video for a full explanation, Photosynth is basically a tool for constructing 3d environments out of a series of 2d photos. Really cool stuff.

But until recently, the project has only really been visible as a tech demo with pre-constructed environments. Well, a couple of weeks ago, that finally changed. Microsoft put out a tool that allows people to construct their own Photosynth environments.

One of my favorite features on Auburn's campus is the War Eagle statue in the pavilion in front of Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum. So I decided to use it for my first test of Photosynth. Grabbing my camera and tripod, I went out and took 166 photos of the statue. Close-ups. Wide shots. Zooming in from long distance with my telephoto lens. Every angle that I could find from ground-level. I then came home, pulled the photos off of my camera, and let the Photosynth tool go to work.

DSC02796The synth took a little over an hour to create and upload. Your results may vary based on the number and resolution of the pictures, as well as how much processing power you can throw at it (it kept my dual core machine pegged). The results were rated 84% "synthy", meaning (I believe) that it correctly mapped 84% of the images. The ones that it had trouble with were my super close-ups of the the eagle's body parts and the ones that were strongly silhouetted by being backlit by the sun. It did the best with photos that actually had the coliseum in the background. I suppose the arena made an easy landmark for the software to key on.

There is one downside for my Mac friends (and Linux, if there are any). Both the creation software and viewer plug-in are Windows-only. But hopefully all of you can find a Windows machine to check it out because it really is pretty cool.

So, please feel free to play around with my synth, or better yet, try to make your own. I plan to play around with this quite a bit more, so pay attention for my future efforts. Please let me know about yours.