Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Even more amazing photo visualizations

I'm still fascinated by maps and photos and how these things are being developed in ways that help us better visualize the world. There have been some amazing recent developments.
First, there is Photosynth,

a new technology from Microsoft Live Labs that takes a large collection of photos of a place or an object, analyzes them for similarities, and displays them in a reconstructed three-dimensional space.
It only runs on Windows for now, and you have to download a plugin, so I made a quick Jing video to demonstrate:

There are only a few locations for now to view, but it is a thing of beauty. Plug it in!

Second, I've long been a fan of Panoramio, an online photo service that works as a standalone viewer but also has great ties into Google Maps and Google Earth. They have updated their interface so that you get a good sense of a photo's location and related
photos. Here, for example is the result you get for searching for Bethlehem, West Bank. (Click on the pic to go to the site directly... The Panoramio site, not Bethlehem itself! ;-) )
But Panoramio has also developed something they call a "Look Around" view that is similar to Photosynth. It's Flash-based, however, so you (probably) don't need to download anything, and it is viewable on a Mac. It is not clear how many sites have this feature enabled, but here is an example of one from the Empire State Building in NYC. (Again, clicking on the graphic will bring you to the actual web site, then click on the "Look around" label under the photo.) Third, I'm saving the best for last. This Panoramio "Look Around" feature appears to have been 'inspired' from the OpenPhotoVR site. There are a number of locations you can 'tour,' but the best part is that you can create your own such photo look around. It took me about 15 minutes to create this photo visualization of Beit Shean in Israel when I was there in January of 2007. There are only seven pics, but still, this is way cool, no?
If any of you get the urge to try your hand at this, send me the embed code and I will get it posted.
UPDATE: Played around a bit and created another one of these for Sardis in Turkey and for Mount Tabor.
For more info on these photo visualizations, check the articles here and here.

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