Photosynths in Bing Maps. Dive in!

Today marks the beta release of the all new Silverlight-based version of Bing Maps, and one of the most visible features on this new site is deep Photosynth integration. The best geotagged photosynths from our community are explorable in Bing Maps in all their synthy goodness — that’s more than 14,000 Photosynths, and 1,435,000 photos.

If you want the full story on everything in this new maps release, check out the official Bing Maps blog. Continue on here to see more details on how Photosynth enhances the maps.

As with most things synthy, words aren’t the best way to communicate the experience. Instead, take a look at this one minute video of “diving in” to a synth from Bing Maps.

Want to try it yourself? Here’s a link that positions you on Beta Bing Maps exactly where the video starts.

The Photosynth community has spread to the far corners of the globe in the 16 months we’ve been live, and the 14,000 geotagged synths cover all the world’s major landmarks and many of the minor ones too.

Going to New York? There are more than a hundred synths in lower Manhattan alone.
Synths in New York

OK, but what about some remote spot like Easter Island in the south eastern corner of the Pacific Ocean? A couple of intrepid archeologists have created at least 13 great synths of the ancient stone statues of Easter island:


Cool. But what’s it good for? 
The URL of our Beta Bing Maps site is, and that last word holds the key to why we’ve made Photosynth a first class imagery type for Bing Maps. More than any other photo technology, Photosynth offers the promise of really taking you inside the Sistene Chapel, showing you the texture of the rock at Uluru, or circumnavigating the great Cologne Cathederal. Exploring the streets of major US cities with the new Streetside map  view gives viewers a real feeling of “being there”, but to deeply explore landmarks, public spaces, and the glorious details of world, you need to put powerful tools in the hands of the people who love these places. We think Photosynth is the best technology in the world for this task, and from the amazing output of our community, we think you agree.

A Small  Mystery Revealed
In our October update we released a feature in the editor called “geoalignment”, which takes geotagging to the next level. The geoalignment process establishes a true size and orientation of the Photosynth point cloud. It’s the mechanism behind the effect in the video above where the map rotates to the perfect approach angle for Haystack Rock off Cannon Beach. When we released the geoalignment tool a couple of months ago, we couldn’t pre-announce the details this update to Bing Maps, so geoalignment was a bit of a mystery to our community. Not surprisingly, many of you didn’t bother with it, but we did, and we even geoaligned some of your great synths to ensure they’d show as well as possible in this new maps release. The Photosynth elves have been burning the midnight oil getting ready for today’s launch!

So How Do I get my Synth Featured?
If you’ve played around with the new maps site you’ll notice that there are more than 300 synths in London, but only one of them is featured on the Bing Maps page if you search for “London, UK”.  So who’s choosing? Good question!

Initially, the Phoytosynth team is making editorial choices — trying to choose synths that are well photographed and show landmarks that a visitor to that place would be interested in. Obviously this is pretty subjective, and we expect lots of discussion in our forum on the topic!  If you have a suggestion for a synth that should be featured for any particular location, please propose it on our dedicated forum thread.

Longer term, the right answer is to let our community vote on which synths to feature for a given location. Look for a dedicated blog post on this subject in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, please explore our new Maps release, and tell us what you think.

Happy Holidays
from the Photosynth team.

Comments (7)

  1. Nate Lawrence says:

    Is there any particular reason why Bing Maps isn’t using the latest pointcloud rendering method seen in the (current, as of this writing) xap on

  2. David Gedye says:

    Nate: When we conduct usability studies among people who’ve never seen Photosynth before (most of the Bing Maps users fall into that category) they often find the point cloud more confusing than useful.

    So — we decided that it was off by default on the mapping site. (‘p’ still works to turn it on though.) In the future I hope we can have a little "expert" panel that will allow the knowledgable to customize the viewing experience.


  3. Nate Lawrence says:

    Oh, I wasn’t thinking of it initially being off as being the difference. I’m very comfortable with the keyboard shortcuts.

    I was mainly noticing that as of your UI change, the pointcloud now redraws in an animated way when active movement through the pointcloud stops. In other words there’s the abbreviated pointcloud animating as usual, but when you come to rest the new xap at adds a few more of the points as soon as possible, then a few more, a few more, et cetera until it has drawn back in all the points that have downloaded thus far in a pleasing ‘swoosh’ type movement. I assume this serves the same misdirection purposes as animating with springs, loading centre tiles first, and all of your blurring tricks on tile edges and on entire tiles until the resolution is sufficiently high.

    This is different to the behaviour that I have seen since the Silverlight 2 days where after coming to rest the entire remainder of the downloaded pointcloud is redrawn in one sudden step, which is clunky by comparison. If I have to wait a moment for the pointcloud to redraw, it may as well animate back in, right? I was thinking that the team’s thoughts followed along those lines as well.

    My only observation above is that the version of the Photosynth viewer xap used in Bing Maps doesn’t do this little trick of animating the pointcloud drawing back in, but goes back to previous behaviour of redrawing all in one fell swoop.

    In any case, I’m delighted to see synths on the map, finally. I certainly am looking forward to the day when multiple pointclouds are viewable at once, without the need to click on each to open. Google Street view does require me to click the ‘User Photos’ icon when it has some within range of my position but it displays clickable quads directly on the Street View panoramic imagery, unless my memory is failing me. (Upon investigation it appears that it may be, in this instance).

    In any case, whether competitors have implemented it or not, I feel that it should be the default behaviour to have the quads available to click on as soon as I am close to a synth or synths within the more traditional map imagery, much like Bird’s Eye imagery is in the 3D Bing Maps control. I simply browse to within proximity of them and I am presented with quads to click on.

  4. Nate Lawrence says:

    I also meant to say that I hope that the legacy AJAX version of Bing Maps can at least implement the hovering tooltip version of the Photosynth player like your old geoexplore page at I would be pleasantly surprised to find that clicking on a synth’s thumbnail in Bing Maps Ajax launched that little hovering Silverlight embed, rather than opening a new window with the thumbnail in it. That’s not exactly doing Photosynth’s reputation any good.

  5. Alpha Ace says:

    not everyone will work that out …and the benefit given by Photosynths wasn’t really that attractive.

    I guess only the hired team will be effective on that, not many normal users can produce the desired pics that Photosynths is happy with.

    Many users will be impressed with it’s uniqueness at 1st but soon those desire will die off eventually….

    Unless, a paid program or gifts voucher will be given and a set of guideline for Photosynths criteria to be made(nice quality pics)

    Perhaps, Photosynths can ask users to opt for Normal pics publishing or Paid picspublishing.

    When they are bored and need more challenge, then they would go for Paid Program as I said, and the said 3D world will grow healthily fast.

    Anyway, wishing you a blessed New Year ahead~

  6. BaoMinhNgo says:

    Very interesting to see photosynths on maps. Thank you much for creating this and allow everyone enjoy this option !

  7. grover taber says:

    very good site keep up the good work