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Microsoft Live Labs, where Microsoft is helping to create the future of online information, released its Photosynth 3D imaging service yesterday, CNet reports.
Photosynth enables you to create a freely-navigable and zoomable 3D space by combining hundreds of photos with overlapping data, but unlike panorama-stitching programs, you get better results if you shoot your photos from a variety of different angles and zoom settings (or different focal-length prime lenses).Photosynth isn't for photography snobs, either. It works with all types of digital camera images, even from camera phones.
To sign up for Photosynth, you need a Windows Live ID (a free Hotmail account will work). After you sign up for Photosynth, you download free software for viewing synths (Microsoft's term for the 3D images you create with Photosynth) and for creating them. For best "synthiness," you'll need to shoot at least 100 pictures, and many of the examples you can view on the Photosynth website include 200 or more images. If you ever wondered why you need a 4GB or larger flash memory card for your camera, wonder no longer. A thorough Photosynth session can use up every bit of space on your largest memory card.
The website includes a Photosynth Photography Guide (links to PDF file) and a downloadable "how to synth" video in WMV format for viewing in Windows Media Player. Although Photosynth works on Windows machines only, the Photosynth viewer plug-in works in Firefox as well as Internet Explorer.
The illustration at the start of this article, captured from the example Synth "Smith Tower" by Jonathan Dughi, shows how Photosynth maps data points from overlapping photos to recreate the image in a zoomable 3D view. The viewer uses the Seadragon rendering and streaming technology also developed by Windows Live Labs.
Here's what you need to use Photosynth:
Photosynth runs on Windows XP SP2 and SP3, and Vista, and requires IE7 or Firefox 2 or 3. There are a variety of video cards out there and we haven't tested them all, but the general requirement is that you have a minimum of 32mb of video RAM, with 64MB or more recommended. DirectX7 is recommended. You should have at least 1gb of system RAM and a 2.0GHz CPU to get the most out of Photosynth. You'll also need a broadband network connection. On the Mac, Bootcamp will work, but not Parallels.
Drop us a comment after you've tried Photosynth and tell us what you think. If the site becomes unresponsive or goes offline from time to time, be patient. Photosynth is revolutionary, and there are a lot of people giving it a try.