Saturday, August 30, 2008

Review : Photosynth

Microsoft recently released its much awaited technology called Photosynth. This is a very cool technology developed by Microsoft Research in association with University of Washington. The name is derived from "photo" which means picture and "synth" which is a short form for a "musical synthesizer" i.e. an instrument used to create music. Photosynth allows users to create a 3D model from a collection of "related" 2D photos. The users can then zoom in and out of the 3D picture as well as move in all directions.

The tool works by identifying a set of common areas between images and then stitching together those areas to form a 3D model of the scene. All that one needs is a decent camera and some ingenuity to be able to shoot a series of photos that resemble each other. In addition, one needs a decent Internet connection to be able to upload all those pics onto the site. Microsoft has used this technology to create another similar application which also creates a 3D model of a structure but has additional powerful features such as balance out the lighting effects between different photos to create a smoother model. Photosynth has already been featured on CSI:Miami where it was used by detectives to solve a case and talks are on between Microsoft and NASA to use this technology at the International Space Station for finding out defects in the ISS body. The service has proven really popular, so popular in fact that the servers were overwhelmed on the first day itself and service went down for a few hours.

Here is how to use this service :
  1. Navigate to Photosynth
  2. Log in with your live id and create a profile which basically requires you to specify a name and description for the synth (yes that is what they call the 3D model :) ) you are trying to create
  3. Once logged in, browse your desktop and upload the photos from which you want the synth to be created and wait till the images are uploaded and processed.
  4. Once done, the synth will be displayed. You can check mine although evidently, it's not too synthy (only 20%)

Here are the pros and cons of the service, in my opinion :

Pros :

  1. It is a really cool tool to play with and use to share photos with your friends and family
  2. It has very little client footprint ( only a plugin needs to be installed). Much of the processing happens on the cloud.
  3. It's decent in terms of speed, much of it depends on your Internet connection speed but the processing seems pretty fast
  4. You can tag the synths which makes searching easier

Cons :

  1. The fact that it has a very little client footprint is also a disadvantage since one needs to be connected to the Internet to be able to use it
  2. There is no option to save your creations onto the desktop ( Hopefully this will change once the product matures )
  3. All creations are public which means anyone can see any one's synths
  4. It works only on PCs right now (Support for the Mac is expected soon)

However, the product is still in its infancy and we can expect Microsoft to add more features (most importantly : Saving synths and authorization ) in the near future. All in call, I found it a lot of fun to work with and a nice way to share your experiences with your family and friends and help them relive it in 3D

1 comment:

  1. Hope that "synth" enters the OED as a noun or a verb -- like "google". It will be one of the few words we have with no hard English vowels -- rhythm and crypt are a few that come to mind :)

    Sorry abt this, I am sane most of the time!