For the last few months we've been hard at work with the Microsoft Research Image Composite Editor (ICE) team to bring you the power to create and share beautifully stitched, seamless panoramas of almost any size.

 

ICE to Photosynth

In this release we’ve put two best-of-breed technologies together: ICE’s state-of-the-art automatic image stitcher that makes it easy to create beautifully toned panoramas of more than a billion pixels, and Photosynth’s Seadragon-based display technology that gives you a  buttery-smooth way to explore every corner of these enormous images. Here's an example. Make sure you hit the "expand" button in the viewer to see it in all it's glory:

 

 

Want a demo? Go experience the best panoramas uploaded so far.

Want to make one yourself? You’ll need to  install Microsoft ICE as well as the latest release of Photosynth. Start here.

Need more info on ICE? Check out their blog post about this release. It goes into lots of great details.

Want to see your panoramas on Bing maps along with the other synths? We’re working on it!

Rail-to-rail viewing

Photosynth should be all about a luscious viewing experience, right? We’ve completely redesigned our viewing page and now the experience stretches the full width of your browser window, whether you’re viewing a panorama or a synth. The page still contains everything it used to, but all the information that used to be squeezed alongside the viewing area is now below it. We think it’s a big improvement.

 

Zoomed-in highlights

Last April we introduced a  feature allowing the author of a synth to mark certain images as “highlights”, and have these presented to the viewer in a strip of thumbnails running down the right of the display. In this update we’ve generalized that feature so that you can make a highlight of any part of any image.  Check out the two highlights on this synth for example. They each show a full resolution portion of an image.  Here’s how I made them:

 

 

A down payment on the future

In February, our architect Blaise Agüera y Arcas presented the Bing Maps vision of spatial exploration and augmented reality at TED2010. If you haven’t watched the video of his talk, you might want to -- it’s pretty compelling. While his presentation wasn’t specifically about Photosynth, it’s no secret that the role of Photosynth in Bing Maps is to allow enthusiasts all over the world to capture the places they know and love. If we’re going to “augment” the world, we need to build it first, and that means that we need both sophisticated van-mounted and backpack-mounted cameras as well as the right software tools in the hands of the millions of people who have a part of the world to share. Those software tools are the next generation of Photosynth.

 

Current generation Photosynths are pretty easy to capture, but we’re the first to admit that they’re not always easy to navigate, and to many people the “layered look” of individual photos stacked and skewed is confusing. We need to do better. We need to be as easy to navigate as Streetside and just as seamless, while preserving the things that make Photosynth unique – namely the ability to see objects from all sides, and to integrate the details with the big picture.

 

That’s our future, and this release takes one significant step in that direction by integrating panoramas. With this release you can choose different tools to make 3D or seamless panoramas. You want both, and we’re working hard to provide it. Watch this space!

 

The Photosynth Team.