September, 2007

  • Steve Clayton

    Good Ads


    hat tip

  • Steve Clayton

    More details on Panoramic imaging and Photosynth


    I had a question on my blog about a week ago regarding the panoramic feature in Windows Live Photo Gallery. Specifically Bradders wanted to know if this was a first implementation of our Photsynth technology. Only one way to find out - ask the products guys and Rick Szeliski from Microsoft Research kindly came back with some detailed answers:

    "It's derived from the same technology that previously shipped in Digital Image Suite, both of which were developed in conjunction with MSR’s Interactive Visual Media group. The same team that created the PhotoTourism technology that powers PhotoSynth.

    We started developing the stitching technology in 1996, and have shipped it inside a number of Digital Image Suite versions. The version shipping now inside the Window Live Photo Gallery is the latest (and best) version of our software yet.

    Photosynth is a project that started out as a collaboration between Rick Szeliski, Noah Snavely and Steve Seitz at the University of Washington called “Photo Tourism”.  It was later combined with the Seadragon multi-resolution image streaming technology to create the Photosynth system that people may be familiar with.  Both sets of technologies use similar early-stage processing pipelines, which extract features from images in order to match up overlapping images (see Rick's Tutorial on Image Stitching for a detailed technical review of feature extraction and matching). 

    The main difference is in the second half of the processing pipeline.  Image stitching software assumes that all images were taken from the same point, so that they can be seamlessly stitched into a single image.  Photosynth assumes that the pictures are taken from different points of view, and can therefore be used to create a 3D model of the scene.  On the flip side, it isn’t possible to stitch all the photos into a single image, so we use “morphing” 3D transitions to move between individual images.

    We are currently working on techniques to merge these two processing pipelines, so that you can just input all of your photos into a single system, and have it discover all of the panoramas and Photosynth's in your collection.  In the future, we also expect the same viewer to be able to view and navigate both kinds of content.  Stay tuned to the Photosynth page for more details."


    So there you go - a very thorough explanation of where we've come from, got to and possibly going with all of this advanced imaging technology. I love the work of Microsoft Research - it's stunning to spend some time with them and truly see the magic of software coming to life!

    thanks Rick!

  • Steve Clayton

    Halo 3 – Ringtone and Wallpapers



    Master Chief on your Windows Mobile. Nuff said.

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  • Steve Clayton

    Windows Live Suite's hidden gold




    I agree Hugh -  something like Windows Live Writer for me - but then yesterday I was reminded of a feature in Live Photo Gallery that I had completely forgotten about. Simon Hughes, our UK director for small and medium business showed me the panoramic stitching option in Photo Gallery.  No, not some new form of electronic crochet but the ability to seamlessly take multiple photos and create a panoramic composite. If your director of SMB is waxing lyrical on this, you know you have a hit!

    This is the kind of technology you'd normally see reserved for higher end, paid for, photo editing programs but now it's available to everyone.

    I just wish we shouted more about this stuff....see what a skeptical user thinks after playing with it.

    Granted we still need to improve the install experience as I agree with Tom, pushing people down the Live search route through the installer just reminds me of when you had to work around similar "tricks" with RealPlayer. Trust me, that feedback has been vehement internally.

  • Steve Clayton

    Where are the cool PC designs?



    It's a little scary how many times I think of writing something and Long has a similar post about the same time. This time it's on Vista hardware. Like him, I'm somewhat disappointed that we're still seeing beige boxes or identikit laptops coming to market but be stumbled across some cool looking prototypes by Carbon Design. The only problem with them? They're still prototypes. If they'd come out 6 months ago people may have ooohed and ahhed but now they'd just say "it's an iMac ripoff".

    There are some efforts to cool up laptops such as the ThinkPad Reserve but my personal view is that's a bit of a lackluster effort and $5k to boot. I can get a leather case for my existing laptop which by the way is perhaps the coolest PC laptop currently available - the Sony TZ12. It has a solid state drive, chicklet keyboard, CD/DVD, webcam, 2gb RAM, carbon lid and 7 hours of battery life. My MacBook Pro is left in its wake with the exception of the backlit keyboard.

    Meanwhile, we're running the NextGen PC Design competition though the website seems unable to accept entries. We've run these things before and get amazing submissions but what happens to them then? I'd love to know...we held a similar competition back here with some great winning entries. I don't see them in my local PC store though....or online :(

    Similarly HP and MTV have a competition running "that challenges young people to express their interests in a design for a new limited edition notebook computer". They say,

    "What's really cool is that the winner will be invited to attend the MTV Europe Music Awards in Munich, Germany, and travel to several HP sites, including Tokyo and Houston, to witness his or her design as it makes its way through the notebook development process"

    actually what would be really cool is to see this for sale on HP's site and for the design to be more than just cosmetic. It's a start though as was last years $1m prized offered  by Intel for a Cool Viiv PC Design. Though I don't remember seeing this become available. There are some attempts are cooler design such as the Acer Ferrari, Asus Lamborghini, the Giles Deacon model from Asus and Lenovo's Olympic design. All of these are more cosmetic than true design though. Why can't we get someone like

    My question then is when is one company going to really take Apple on in the design stakes and create a PC that is talked about. Sony have promised but never quite delivered - though the TZ12 gets many admiring looks and questions - but it's going to take something more.

    One step in the right direction though is the Dell Vostro line. They listened to customer feedback and stripped all the trialware off their machines. Watch this make a HUGE different to performance and satisfaction with machines.

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