New Features: “Highlights” & Cross-Platform Viewer

We’re really excited about this update to Photosynth.  We’ve added a major new feature to our viewing experience and have improved the viewer to reach even more people.  With our new highlights feature you can point out the “can’t miss” areas of your synths and the new Silverlight viewer will allow you to share your synths with people on more operating systems.

Silverlight-based Cross-Platform Viewer

Our goal has always been to share the Photosynth experience with as many people as possible, but our Direct 3D viewer hasn’t been friendly to our Mac friends.  We’ve been working on our Silverlight experimental viewer and I’m excited to say we’re promoting it to be the main viewer for Photosynth.  This will allow PC and Mac users to not only view synths but join in the rest of the Photosynth community by leaving comments, marking favorite synths and getting to know their fellow synthers.

Our embedding code has also been moved over to Silverlight so now you can embed your synths around the web and reach even more viewers with your fantastic creations.

Updated Viewer Controls


We’ve updated the viewer controls in the Silverlight viewer to be more useful when exploring synths.  Based on your feedback and support we’ve consolidated all the navigation buttons in the center bottom of the viewer.  No more hunting around with your mouse to all the corners of the viewer to get around.


Synth Highlights

Photosynth does an awesome job taking lots of flat photos and stitching them into immersive 3D experiences… but sometimes it can be hard to find all the best places hidden around a synth.  With our new highlights feature you not only can find some of the best spots in a synth… you can take a smooth journey through the synth from highlight to highlight.

A Couple Great Highlight Rich Examples… (More Coming too!)


Nellie Inglerock - Masonic Cemetery by dariusmonsef


Art Gallery of New South Wales by David


 Martello Tower: Inside & Out by lostinthetriangle


How to Add Highlights to Your Synths


-Click Edit Synth and Highlights in the right info area for your synth. You’ll need to be logged in.


-Find A Great Photo (Optional: Give it a Title & Caption) - Click Add Highlight

-Find Another Great Photo… repeat.

-Click Save

Now you can explore your synth with the newly added highlights.


One Step Back. Two Leaps Forward.

Moving to the Silverlight viewer might look like a step back in performance because of the lower frame rate and delayed point cloud density… but this move has allowed us to take two leaps forward. We’re now able to allow Mac users to fully participate on our website and we can build editing and highlights features right into the viewer code.  We haven’t written off performance for these two new benefits.  Our team is working hard on improving performance so that the Silverlight viewer can not only be more feature rich than the D3D viewer but be equally high performance if not better. 

If you’re looking for the old D3D viewer you can still get to it from the “View Synth in Direct3D Viewer” link in the bottom left of the viewer area on any synth page.

Where’d My Halos Go?

Probably the saddest thing we’re missing in the Silverlight viewer is the Halos or Donuts that we used to show where there was an object that can be rotated around.  This feature is still there, it just has a different visual icon.  Again, this is something we know some of you will miss and we’ll find a way to keep making the Silverlight viewer better and more donut-y.

You’ll also probably notice a new Unlisted feature.  This lets you upload a synth without making it public.  This will be great for fine tuning your synths before sharing the final version with the public.  This unlisted option comes along with some commercial features for bigger brands to start using Photosynth, but I’ll cover those details in more depth in a future post.

Now go add some great highlights and share them with your friends!

Comments (16)

  1. Toph says:

    One step back, two steps forward indeed. Bittersweet transition. But an understandable decision.

    Love the transitions between highlights, and, while I’m a PC user, it’ll be nice to be able to share synths more freely. Keep it up. 🙂

  2. Dave R. says:

    How disappointing. Performance is rubbish now, whereas it used to be smooth as silk on my machine. How can I go back to the previous version? Why can’t PC users have the D3D version and the other OSes have the slow Silverlight one?

  3. Paul Smith says:

    Nice work guys, I’ll be using Photosynth a lot more now I can embed it on my website and have people actually be able to use it.

    That said, I’d like to see the D3D version kept up to date until we get a version based on Silverlight 3 which can make use of its hardware acceleration.

    Sure performance is worse, but most people won’t install an application to be able to view something in the first place, we still can if we want and get the better performance by using the old D3D version by clicking the link in the bottom-left. 🙂

  4. Breezest says:

    Nice Work! I hope you will get the step back after the two leaps.

  5. dariusmonsef says:

    @Toph, thanks for understanding the transition and the support… happy free sharing of your synths.

    @Paul, the D3D viewer can still be found on the view page for any synth.  Just click the "View Synth in Direct3D Viewer" text in the bottom left under the viewer.  We’ll continue to have that there as our high-performance viewer until we can bring the Silverlight one up.

    @Dave, sorry to disappoint.  Keep in mind we’ve been having some server performance issues the last day or so… so you’re probably noticing worse than it should be performance.  And mentioned above the D3D viewer is still available.  Also we didn’t just move to Silverlight to allow other OSers to view synths, we did it so everybody can see the highlights as well as edit their synths.  Again, we’re working hard on the performance issue.

    @Breezest, we’re working on it! 🙂

  6. SynthDragon says:


    Let everyone set their favourite viewer in the user profile settings (be it DirectX 3D or Silverlight).


    This would make both worlds happy, the Windows users with a reasonable graphic card and the MacOS folks plus the one with older non DX9 hardware.

    The Silverlight C# code might be easier to maintain, nevertheless instead of abandon the DX3D one, it should still be the main viewer for Windows (and the new features like the "highlights bar").

    DirectX9 Caps checking and browser useragent checking might do the trick to prevent from most DX3D viewer crashes.

  7. Nate Lawrence says:

    Everything I’m hearing speaks to discontinued development of the Direct3D viewer, despite its continued presence on the site, now as a second class citizen.

    I had the exact same reaction as SynthDragon yesterday. I would love to see the new features introduced to both viewers and the user given an option as to which one they prefer to use (even if the Silverlight viewer is the default).

    When I first saw the Silverlight viewer last fall, my assumption was that the viewer would sniff the client and load the appropriate plugin: Silverlight for those with nothing else available (or even as a default if it were already installed) and Direct3D for those who can make use of it. Seeing the update yesterday, with the Silverlight viewer now being the clear first class citizen with continuing development (which is understandable… and fantastic for the cross-platform story!) and the Direct3D viewer as a relic of the past, my first desire was still for an option in my personal preferences to use the Direct3D viewer as my primary choice. The obvious drawback to this is that all of the new highlight authoring and viewing features are nowhere to be seen in the Direct3D viewer, despite the fact that I was forced to download an update yesterday to continue to use it.

    I know that I, for one, would LOVE to be able to view AND edit features fullscreen in the Direct3D viewer. Even if the Silverlight viewer finally catches up to the D3D viewer’s performance, we all know that the keyboard is disabled in Silverlight’s fullscreen mode.

  8. Atomusk says:

    Great work ! I love the new " Highlights" addition (already started filling them in my synth )

    Concerning performance issues, can we hope to find back great performance improvements when you will upgrade the viewer to Silverlight 3 ?


  9. dariusmonsef says:

    @Nate & @SynthDragon: I can understand where you’re coming from but our team is small and we need to focus our resources.  Our D3D viewer while higher performance right now doesn’t have a long term future as a cross-platform viewer.  Our Silverlight does have that future and we can and are working on the performance issues.

    Adding the highlights feature into our D3D viewer is a lot of work and if we focused on maintaining features in both viewers… we’d never get either one working really well.

    We left the D3D viewer up because we knew some of you would miss some of the features it has that we don’t have working as well yet in the Silverlight viewer… I ask you to be patient as we work hard on catching up the Silverlight viewer where it is lacking.

    Thanks for being passionate users.  Your support and feedback help us make Photosynth as great as it can be.

  10. SoulSolutions says:

    Awesome work guys. Great to see Photosynth in Silverlight and of course with Virtual Earth also now in Silverlight (CTP) I can’t wait to see some amazing geospatial integration.


  11. any news on when we can embed the control in our own Silverlight applications?

  12. joaocsampayo says:

    Hello…i have a question…how can i free navigate with this new system?

  13. Nate Lawrence says:


    According to Joshua Podolak (I think) the free navigation will be added into the Silverlight viewer in the near future. Here’s the link: <a href="">Jump</a&gt;.


    Thanks for your patience. It takes a lot to meet people’s complaints on a regular basis. (I know it’s not all complaints, but I’m sure you see more concentrated amounts than most of us are subjected to.)

    I had a question that’s been plaguing me since the update and I’d love a reply. To cut to the chase I don’t know what sort of boost in performance to expect from Silverlight 3, but as you can well imagine I am eager to see an updated Silverlight Photosynth viewer as soon after Silverlight 3 hits the final build.

    However… in the crossplatform story I’m feeling pain for the Linux users that I know. If all goes well Moonlight 2 should be released in September of this year and therefore they should be able to run the current Silverlight viewer (written in Silverlight 2.0). Being that Moonlight is so far behind Silverlight development, if the team is focused on a single version of the viewer (understandable… it’s difficult enough fixing bugs and building, testing, etc. new features on one version, let alone more) that basically means that right around the time that Linux users could finally have used Photosynth properly for the first time with the Silverlight 2 viewer, the team will upgrade everyone to the Silverlight 3 viewer and while most Windows users will hopefully be quieted after having the Direct3D viewer dropped, Linux users will have Photosynth yanked from within their grasp when they were closer than ever.

    My question comes to: If we’re going to make sacrifices in the name of cross platform, is the team willing to maintain two versions of the Silverlight viewer in order to reach out to Linux users whose only recourse is using Moonlight? As community leader I hope that if anyone sees the value of enabling people to be excited about Photosynth and support the community, it would be you.

    Thanks for any answers you can bring us.

  14. Geoff Coupe says:

    Why can’t I embed my Photosynths into my Windows Live Spaces blog?

    I paste in the embed code into a blog entry when in HTML view, and then when switching back to normal view, I can see the embedded photosynth. However, when I publish the blog entry, Windows Live Spaces strips out the embed code, so I end up with a blank space where the Photosynth should be.

    What am I doing wrong?

  15. Nate Lawrence says:

    Geoff Coupe,

    I’ve run into the same issue before as well. Unfortunately this is going to have to be fixed by the Windows Live Spaces team, rather than the Photosynth team. I’ve asked them the same question.

    2008 November 10, Russell Rutledge wrote to me saying simply, "Sorry, but currently there is not a way to embed synths into your live space using an iframe."

    There’s really no answer until the Spaces team gets their act together, unfortunately. Just continue to ask them for it as a feature so that they realize that there is a demand for it.

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