Microsoft Photosynth

Microsoft Photosynth is a technology that automatically stitches together digital photos.

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Microsoft Photosynth
  • Microsoft Photosynth
  • Microsoft Photosynth
  • Microsoft Photosynth

Pros

  • Incredibly cool

Cons

  • No OS X support

Bottom Line

Microsoft Photosynth is an exciting tool with some genuinely interesting applications and features. Best of all, the pace of change we've already seen, and the depth of ambition claimed by the development team suggests that Photosynth has a lot of potential.

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Creating your synth

Microsoft provides an excellent primer on the best way to shoot photos for use in Photosynth. The basics: capture JPEG images only (unlimited size); try and overlap shots by about 50 percent; start with a wide panoramic shot before moving in for greater detail; ensure that all photos are oriented correctly; and limit the angles between photos. The more suitable your shots are, the more coordinates Photosynth will have to build a reconstruction with (3D designers will be familiar with this "point cloud" concept). The more points there are, the more "synthy" your collection will be.

A quick note on copyright: since all synths are public for the moment, it's good to see that you're able to fully — or partially — restrict the reuse of your photos through a full spectrum of Creative Commons licence options.

Uploading a simple 10-photo synth takes a matter of minutes. We went a little more extreme and uploaded a 156-photo test shot at San Francisco's well-known Red's Java House by the bay. Our collection (214MB of 2048-by-1536-resolution shots) took about 75 minutes to upload and was immediately available as a synth. As an indication of just how far Photosynth has come, the demo shown at the 2007 TED Conference - which took multiple machines two weeks to calculate - can now be created in an hour, on a single laptop.

Community appeal

Community features will play a big role on Photosynth.net. At launch, you can easily write captions and keyword tags for your photos and use Virtual Earth to geo-tag your collection (though this feature was a bit sluggish when we tried it).

For synths created by other users, you can post comments and flag inappropriate content. To share any synth with a friend, you can use a unique direct-link URL (good for IM or email) or — best of all — copy a synth's embed code and slap it on your blog.

More to come...

Is Photosynth.net a beta? From the website: "What you see on this site is the first of many versions of Photosynth. Call it beta, call it 1.0, call it whatever you want… just know we are hard at work adding support for more browsers, more platforms, and more hardware, and just making the experience that much more amazing."

The nimble Photosynth team definitely has some interesting things it wants to explore. Think possible Mac and Flickr support, groups, favourites, RSS feeds, scripted tours, private synths, greater Virtual Earth integration, and an open API for mashups. Then there's the game-changing feature first alluded to a couple of years ago: cross-linking between the synths of various users or even combining photos of the same place — taken by different people, at different times — into one giant supersynth to rule them all.

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