My wife does a middle school research project using “landmarks” as a theme. Students research places like the pyramids, the Eiffel Tower, and on and on. Obviously images are a part of this project. Students, especially today, are interested in what things look like. The other day I showed my wife Photosynth. While there have been some sample Synths (as the 3D images are called) for a while within the last week Windows Live Labs has opened up the ability for more people to create their own images. And people have! Many of the places my wife has her students research are now viewable in three dimensions and both close up and far away using an interesting and powerful navigation tool.
So what is this about? Imagine taking a wide variety of pictures of something from different angles and different distances. Perhaps several people are taking these pictures. Now plug them into some software that figures out where everything goes and creates a three dimensional model that not only lets you look at the object from different directions but lets you zoom in and out as well. Well that is what Photosynth does. And now people can create their own.
I see a couple of obvious uses. One is the let students explore far away places and objects. Another is to document their own world. Their school for example. Or perhaps a local landmark. Or, well all sorts of things. And yes, its free!
The other tool I have been looking at lately is DeepZoom. Jaime Rodriguez has a good explanation of the history and workings of DeepZoom (especially useful if you want to create your own) but basically this is another stitch the pictures together application. In this care it allows very high resolution viewing of very large images that are created by building up from multiple images. This is 2D though but you can go deep. The two most famous DeepZoom images are probably the Hard Rock Cafe memorabilia demo page and one that was down with 12,000 images by Barack Obama supporters. I can see this tool used for school projects as well. Also free!
Anyone up for creating an online tour of their school, classroom, or local landmark? Late edit: According the the Microsoft UK Higher Education blog the University of Leeds is already using Photosynth to show off their campus.