When Google Maps launched their "Street View" last week it started a huge spectacle of people looking for odd photos. Some of the things people found were quite funny, but I’m glad that Google launched such a feature because it helps people become familiar with areas that they haven’t visited.
It’s definitely a cool feature, but let the truth be told that it doesn’t stack up to what Microsoft’s Photosynth can do. If you haven’t heard of Photosynth then I’m sure you’ll be quite impressed. It essentially "assembles" images into a 3D world that you can navigate, and it is even more amazing than it sounds.
The downside to Photosynth is that it requires a lot of processing power to assemble the images together into a structural model that can be navigated. For that reason it hasn’t been opened up to the public yet, so you can’t upload your own pictures to see what this thing can really do.
However, they have taken a big step forward in helping prepare a piece for BBC’s new series entitled "How We Built Britain." The PhotoSynth team has spent 6-months preparing image mashups for Ely Cathedral, Burghley House, the Royal Crescent, Bath, the Scottish Parliament Buildings, and Blackpool Tower Ballroom. As long as you’re running Internet Explorer or Firefox, feel free to check them out yourself (it does require that you install an add-on though).
For those of you who don’t feel like installing anything, I have put together a 4-minute video demonstration of each place they have implemented:
Pretty cool, huh? I thought it was awesome being able to fly around all of the different places, and it definitely gives future tourists an inside look at popular areas.
Whether the Photosynth team will ever be able to increase the performance of the image assembling process is still a question that I find myself asking. It took them 6-months to prepare these galleries, so making something available for consumers to use would not be an easy task. Although the video in this post by the Photosynth team implies that there are other things this technology can be used for.