This week, like me, you’ve likely been watching with fascination the numerous ways technology allowed us to experience the Presidential Inauguration like never before.  From streaming video live on the Internet, twittering from the National Mall, or taking and sharing digital photos, Americans had countless ways to digitally interact. If you watch CNN, you probably saw that Microsoft partnered with the cable news network to gather thousands of citizens’ phone and digital camera photos and stitched them together to create a huge 3D panorama view of when Obama took the Oath of Office.

They did this with a new Microsoft technology called Photosynth. The technology came out of Microsoft Research and is based on a collaborative research project with the University of Washington. This cool technology goes far beyond just allowing you to share your still photos with other people…it allows you to share an experience. People are put right into your shoes and can look up and down, left to right and all around the scene where you snapped pictures. (Take a look at the Great Sphinx in Egypt below.) The software analyzes each photo for similarities and magically matches them together.

Photosynth is a free Microsoft tool teachers can integrate into their curriculum and classrooms to help transform the learning environment. All you have to do is download and install Photosynth and Silverlight onto your computer. We even have a webinar to get teachers and IT staff up to speed on how to use the software. I think the ability for students and teachers to really interact with their world in three dimensions and use visualization this powerful really creates a whole new set of opportunities. What’s really great is that Photosynth uses technology…camera phones, digital cameras, the Internet…that kids are already interested in and use in real-life every day.

Just envision, on your next school field trip, you have all your students take pictures from their different vantage points. You come back to the classroom, stitch the pictures together and imagine all the stories the kids could tell.