The Photographs of the Future

 In News and Events, Tech Tuesday

I discovered an amazing “new” application on my Windows 8.1 Surface Pro last week, almost by accident and decided it warranted some more investigation. It’s a feature embedded into the built in camera, called “PhotoSynth” and the potential here is astounding and inspirational.

At first, I thought, “PhotoSynth” was stitching together photos I was taking, in a panoramic style, like many “point and shoot” cameras can do.

Maybe you’ve seen the feature on a camera, where you turn on panoramic mode and take a photo, then point the camera to the left or right, and line up the next image with the last, in the view finder and take the next shot. That feature will take four or five shots and either stitch them all together, or allow you to do so yourself with the aid of PhotoShop or some equivalent software.

Then I noticed, as I pointed my camera (Windows Surface in this case) up, or down, the guidelines continued to line up the interior of my room. I could take better than a panorama shot – I can take a 360 degree photo.

It turns out that PhotoSynth is in fact a far advanced decendant of stitched panoramas. It is an entire online service, in this case provided by Microsoft but undoubtedly available in other flavours which will make use of any photos you can provide. Photos taken specifically for the purpose will work best though.

My first effort, where I was literally discovering the feature as I took the photo(s) was fairly warped. The effect was fairly  distorted as I recklessly moved the lense taking the images, around in a circle.  But I was pretty excited about what I had just stumbled upon.

So I started playing around a bit more and got a bit better at it. I quickly discovered I had only scratched the surface of what was an incredible technology, and something that does an awful lot more than take 360 degree photos on my Surface.

The feature I discovered, embedded in the photo taking app on my Windows Surface, provides just one small flavour of the world of PhotoSynth.

It turns out you can take “Panorama”, “Spin”, “Walk”  and “Wall” photos. Each of these variants of three dimensional photos differ from videos in one significant way: the viewer has control – back / forward, up / down, zoom in / zoom out – just drag the mouse around to see what you want to see.

To explain all this in great detail will extend this weekly post far beyond it’s intended scope, and has certainly already been done by people far more qualified to do so, than me.

In short however, you can sign up for PhotoSynth at www.photosynth.net using a Microsoft Account. (They’re free to create if you don’t have one.) There are tutorials and a great explanatory video. This is a “Technical Preview” service, allowing you to create images that live online and can be linked to, or embedded in web sites, blog posts, on Facebook and so on. There is however, also software you can download for your Windows PC – for stitching together the images and publishing them to the Internet without the need for the Photosynth web page. Other than browsing to the site though, it doesn’t seem to save much, as photos are still uploaded for processing.

Either way, via the app or the web site, you take your photos, upload them to your account and PhotoSynth does the best it can to stitch them altogether, as a Panorama, Spin… whatever mode you’ve taken. The more photos you provide the better.

Once your “Synth” is complete, you’ll receive an email – it only took a few minutes in my case. You can then decide how public you wish to make your images and you can choose to tag them (geopgraphically) as well.

Here’s my very first effort:
I discovered an amazing “new” application on my Windows 8.1 Surface Pro last week, almost by accident and decided it warranted some more investigation. It’s a feature embedded into the built in camera, called “PhotoSynth” and the potential here is astounding and inspirational.

At first, I thought, “PhotoSynth” was stitching together photos I was taking, in a panoramic style, like many “point and shoot” cameras can do.

Maybe you’ve seen the feature on a camera, where you turn on panoramic mode and take a photo, then point the camera to the left or right, and line up the next image with the last, in the view finder and take the next shot. That feature will take four or five shots and either stitch them all together, or allow you to do so yourself with the aid of PhotoShop or some equivalent software.

Then I noticed, as I pointed my camera (Windows Surface in this case) up, or down, the guidelines continued to line up the interior of my room. I could take better than a panorama shot – I can take a 360 degree photo.

It turns out that PhotoSynth is in fact a far advanced decendant of stitched panoramas. It is an entire online service, in this case provided by Microsoft but undoubtedly available in other flavours which will make use of any photos you can provide. Photos taken specifically for the purpose will work best though.

My first effort, where I was literally discovering the feature as I took the photo(s) was fairly warped. The effect was fairly distorted as I recklessly moved the lense taking the images, around in a circle. But I was pretty excited about what I had just stumbled upon.

So I started playing around a bit more and got a bit better at it. I quickly discovered I had only scratched the surface of what was an incredible technology, and something that does an awful lot more than take 360 degree photos on my Surface.

The feature I discovered, embedded in the photo taking app on my Windows Surface, provides just one small flavour of the world of PhotoSynth.

It turns out you can take “Panorama”, “Spin”, “Walk” and “Wall” photos.

To explain all this in great detail will extend this weekly post far beyond it’s intended scope, and has certainly already been done by people far more qualified to do so, than me.

In short however, you can sign up for PhotoSynth at www.photosynth.net using a Microsoft Account. (They’re free to create if you don’t have one.) There are tutorials and a great explanatory video. This is a “Technical Preview” service, allowing you to create images that live online and can be linked to, or embedded in web sites, blog posts, on Facebook and so on. There is however, also software you can download for your Windows PC – for stitching together the images and publishing them to the Internet without the need for the Photosynth web page. Other than browsing to the site though, it doesn’t seem to save much, as photos are still uploaded for processing.

Either way, via the app or the web site, you take your photos, upload them to your account and PhotoSynth does the best it can to stitch them altogether, as a Panorama, Spin… whatever mode you’ve taken. The more photos you provide the better.

Once your “Synth” is complete, you’ll receive an email – it only took a few minutes in my case. You can then decide how public you wish to make your images and you can choose to tag them (geopgraphically) as well.

Here’s my very first effort:

Naturally, they are sharable, Facebook, Twitter, via email, link or can even be embedded in blog posts and other web pages as I’ve done here.

I think more importantly, use a decent camera and make an effort to get the quality of the photos as high as possible.

From here I’m going to send you off in PhotoSynth’s direction by providing a few links as references, to hopefully go on and discover the world of PhotoSynth and be inspired.

This technology will change the world and change what we expect as we interact with web sites and services in the near future.

Imagine the implications for the residential building industry. Customers can view the progress of their new home, tradies can communicate with site managers with 100% clarity, and salespeople can have a field day promoting their new display homes. I think we’ll see these images need to be embedded into all sorts of software in the future. How about when a tradie has an issue on site? 360 degree photos of rooms, benches, components, landscaping and so on, which, unlike video, are completely controllable by the viewer in terms of angle, zoom etc, are going to prove invaluable.

Further Reading:

Get started at http://photosynth.net/preview

For an explanation of Panoramas, Spins, Walks and Walls, see https://photosynth.net/preview/about/

For the more pragmatic, seeking some definitions and a bit of history, have a read of Wikipedia. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photosynth)

If you’re still not solved on the world changing nature of all this, check out this TED Talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/blaise_aguera_y_arcas_demos_photosynth?language=en

And finally, if this is not new to you, we’d love to see something you’ve done with PhotoSynth or hear some ideas you have.

From here I’m going to send you off in PhotoSynth’s direction by providing a few links as references, to hopefully go on and discover the world of PhotoSynth and be inspired.

This technology will change the world and change what we expect as we interact with web sites and services in the near future.

Imagine the implications for the residential building industry. Customers can view the progress of their new home, tradies can communicate with site managers with 100% clarity, and salespeople can have a field day promoting their new display homes. I think we’ll see these images need to be embedded into all sorts of software in the future. How about when a tradie has an issue on site? 360 degree photos of rooms, benches, components, landscaping and so on, which, unlike video, are completely controllable by the viewer in terms of angle, zoom etc, are going to prove invaluable.

Further Reading:

Get started at http://photosynth.net/preview

For an explanation of Panoramas, Spins, Walks and Walls, see https://photosynth.net/preview/about/

For the more pragmatic, seeking some definitions and a bit of history, have a read of Wikipedia. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photosynth)

If you’re still not solved on the world changing nature of all this, check out this TED Talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/blaise_aguera_y_arcas_demos_photosynth?language=en

And finally, if this is not new to you, we’d love to see something you’ve done with PhotoSynth or hear some ideas you have.

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