Photosynth to get major update, will bring spinning and walking tools


posted Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 1:49 PM EDT


Microsoft's Photosynth is a hidden gem of an app, an incredibly powerful panorama tool for Windows Phone and iOS, as well as on the desktop. Now Microsoft is previewing a new generation of that technology, and it's going to offer a lot more than just turning around in place.

Photosynth has always provided support for panoramas, but the new iteration will add support for three more types: spin, walk, and wall. Spin is for you to walk around an object, and view it from all angles. Walk is along the lines of Google Street View, and interactive step by step along a fixed path. And wall is a horizontal pan along a smooth line.

Here's how Microsoft explains the new technology:

When you upload a set of photos to our cloud service, our technology starts by looking for points (called "features") in successive photos that appear to be the same object.

If it finds many features that reoccur in your set of photos, it passes this information on to the second step: bundle adjustment. Bundle adjustment, a standard technique in photogrammetry, determines where in 3D space each feature is, exactly where each photo was taken from, and how the camera was oriented for each photo.

Third, the technology uses the feature points in each photo to generate 3D shapes. It does so on a per-photo basis rather than trying to generate a global 3D model for the scene. The 3D model generated by Photosynth is coarse - you can see it if you type "c" (for camera) in the viewer and then use your mouse wheel to zoom out.

Next, the technology calculates a smooth path (think of it as a steadicam) through the locations of the camera for each photo. With this path, Photosynth presents the experience of moving through a synth as a gliding motion even if the actual photos were shot at different heights or slightly off-angle. You can see this path if you type "m" (for map) in the viewer. Finally, Photosynth slices and dices the images into multi-resolution pyramids for efficient access.

We've embedded some of the samples below, and they're incredibly impressive — especially seeing as the entire system seems to be automated rather than manual. You can also see a rather impressive Mount Everest flyby, to see what it looks like with high quality images.

The Photosynth preview is currently accepting signups to trial the new technology, but we don't know when or how this will roll out, or even what platform it will be on. But with any luck, this updated version will propagate to desktop and mobile very quickly.

(via the Verge)

Wrapped Rocks by David on Photosynth

Edinburgh Castle walk by David on Photosynth

Example of a wall synth by wideangle on Photosynth