It's very exciting to feel like we're really at the crest of this wave with the Photosynth project. A lot of things have come together. There's the basic research in computer vision coming from Microsoft Research and the University of Washington and there's this hunger and entrepreneurial spirit that we, that we certainly had at SeaDragon and that Live Labs also has, really as a, as a startup inside Microsoft.
Photosynth is the combination of two technologies. One of them is SeaDragon and Photo Tourism is a project that Noah Snavely did as a graduate student at UW.
So at the University of Washington side, Noah and I had been playing with ways of, ah, taking photographs of a scene from different camera viewpoints and trying to create smooth camera transitions between those two camera viewpoints. In parallel with this, Rick Szeliski at Microsoft Research was capturing large data sets from his own travels and he was also interested in creating 3D models and we kind of joined forces and that was the beginning of a very fruitful collaboration.
When I first saw, kind of, the first 3D reconstruction which is, um, of a town square in Prague, I got really excited and, you know, this is kinda my, my first major project that I've been working on at UW.
Noah was able to download this set of images and automatically reconstruct the 3D model that we could visualize, ah, in 3D and this, this was reconstructed purely from photographs on the internet.
On the SeaDragon part was, of course, Blaise who envisioned this world in which you wouldn't have to think about resolution anymore.
This is 'Bleak House'. It's the entire book, or if we zoom in deeply we see this kind of progressive resolution. That's real text. It's not, it's not an image of text which I'm proving by zooming in like that. This would be a, a terapixel image if we had actually digitized it or... and were rendering it that way.
We have an institute that's at the intersection between lots of these different groups and so being able to straddle multiple worlds, I think it helps us to think about problems in an entirely new and different way.
Photosynth - it's been such a pleasure to see evolve from week to week, getting simpler and easier for people to use, but also we keep discovering new ways to up the "Wow!" factor.
Making those photos really paste onto the environment in a much richer way and make that environment be about more than just a point cloud, but really something more game-like.
In the long term I'm hopeful that this will be a new visual medium just like photography and video where people can basically create photosynths in surprising ways that no one has done before. People are going to enjoy and share their photographs in a much more creative and immersive way.
Finding relationships between photos will allow you to explore them in the same way that you can just navigate through the web but in a much more visually compelling way.
If you want to take one of your photographs and see, "Who else took photographs from this scene?" "What does this scene look like from different viewpoints?", you can now do that. But you can also transfer information between photographs.
If you do a search on a photo service for the tag "Rome", for example, then about 80% of the pictures that you find there are liable to register with other pictures that have something rigid in them and that really raises the possibility of these massive interconnected environments of Rome in 3D, built of hundreds of thousands of user's photographs.
We're doing things that are almost like mash-ups in the browser in real time. This is an example of where the whole is really greater than the sum of the parts.
I'm very excited about where this is going in the future 'cause I think it's an example of how research can make the bridge from an academic setting where we did it at the University of Washington and Microsoft Research directly into products at Microsoft and it's the new structure of Live Labs that enables that to happen. We have the university, we have Microsoft Research helping to do some fundamental work, then we have Live Labs prototyping all these things and bringing them out to the market so that we can actually bring them to the public.
I can't wait to see what happens with this.
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