Photosynth Tech Preview Released

I’m Bryan Ressler, a Software Engineer on the PIX Team. Back in August, I wrote about my work on the Photosynth Tech Preview. We’ve been working hard testing and incorporating feedback from an internal Microsoft deployment. On Thursday, November 9, Live Labs’ head Gary Flake demonstrated Photosynth at the Web 2.0 Conference in San Francisco. Simultaneously, we released Photosynth on Live Labs website.

If you’re ready to try Photosynth for yourself, head to the Photosynth launch page and click the orange “Try the Tech Preview” button there. You’ll soon be at the Installing page (shown at right). Since Photosynth is an ActiveX control, don’t forget to approve its installation. Once the Photosynth code is installed on your computer, you’ll be greeted with your first glorious taste of Photosynth the Piazza San Marco collection. This collection was built from a set of photographs taken by Live Labs’ own Jonathan Dughi, a Program Manager on the Photosynth project.
Collect Yourself
Don’t forget that the San Marco collection is only one of the collections that we’ve provided in this initial Tech Preview release. Be sure to click the “More Collections” link on the left side of the browser window to see a list of the currently available collections.

The collections featured in our initial release are designed to demonstrate how Photosynth can be used with different types of photographic content. Piazza San Marco and Piazza St. Pietro are large outdoor architectural environments – the type of settings that were originally envisioned when Photosynth was still a research project. The Grassi Lakes collection shows how the technology handles more organic settings. The Gary Faigin Studio collection portrays an indoor environment, with super-high-resolution detail images of some parts of the room. We’ll be bringing more collections online soon, so be sure to check back periodically. (My favorite of the current collections is Piazza St. Pietro. See how many keys you can find in that collection by zooming into the statues.)

Getting Around
Photosynth provides an immersive environment for viewing a collection of photos, and the 3D model that is gleaned from the collection helps provide context for the individual photos.

If you move your mouse over the 3D “point cloud,” you’ll see the white outlines of other available photos. If you click, you’ll move to the location where that photograph was taken, and you’ll see the photograph appear as though “projected” onto the point cloud. Every transition from one image to another adds a thumbnail to the left side of the history bar at the bottom of the window. (The right side of that bar shows photos that share features in common with the currently selected photo.)

Another simple way to explore the photo collection is to use the six “navigation arrow” buttons situated around the sides of the window. They navigate to an adjacent, overlapping image in the direction of they arrow. The two buttons at the bottom of the window that point “in” and “out” do just that – they move push in or pull back from the current location.

If you click and drag the mouse over the model, you rotate the view. Should you get lost, you can press Enter on your keyboard to re-center the current image. To return to the start image for the collection, press 0 (zero) or click the Home on-screen button in the upper right of the window.

For the adventurous, there’s also game-style keyboard navigation:

  •  A, D: slide left or right

  •  W, S: move forward or backward

  •  E, C: move up or down

  •  L, ‘ (single quote): rotate camera left or right

  •  P, ; (semicolon): rotate camera up or down

  • Also, after you’ve got a collection open, don’t forget to visit locations linked in the Highlights section of the left side of the browser window.

    Zoom Zoom!
    Don’t forget that Photosynth is built atop Live Labs’ amazing Seadragon multiresolution technology. That means the full original image resolution is available for viewing. For instance, the photos in the San Marco collection are 8.2 megapixel. Place the mouse pointer over a particular feature in the photograph you’re viewing and roll your mouse wheel forward to zoom in, or backward to zoom out. You’ll see the image clarify as the additional photographic information is brought into view. (If you don’t have a mouse wheel, you can use the Zoom + and – keys in the upper right of the window.

    To really get a feel for the power of the Seadragon technology, try the Gary Faigin Studio collection, which contains detail images of some of the works in his studio of over 80 megapixels. That’s enough resolution to see the artist’s individual strokes on the medium.

    More Like This
    The right side of the history bar at the bottom of the window shows images that share visual information with the currently selected image. But another way to see “similar” images, or just get an idea of the contents of a collection, is to switch in to 2D by clicking the 2D button in the upper write of the window (or by pressing the ~ key). This view shows all the images in a grid, with the currently selected image in the middle. The images that are most similar to the selected image are closest to the middle and larger. Images that have less in common with the selected image are outside, and smaller. To select a different image, click on it and the view will reshuffle to place the newly selected image in the middle. To switch back to 3D mode, click the middle image or the on-screen 2D/3D button you clicked before. (Don’t’ forget, you can still zoom with the mouse wheel and pan around by clicking and dragging the mouse when you are in 2D view.)

    Tell Me Something I Didn’t Know
    There are a few obscure keys that most people don’t know about (hey, I only know about them because I worked on the code!) They aren’t central to Photosynth’s basic functionality, but they’re fun anyway.

  • F: turn on/off camera pyramids

  • R: go to a random image

  • U, J: navigate to “up” or  “down” image (same as up on-screen up and down buttons)

  • T: do a 3D overview “tour” over the point cloud

  • +, -: zoom in and out

  • , (comma), . (period): navigate forward or backward through history

  • ~: switch between 2D and 3D mode

  • 1: autoplay (simple slideshow)

  • The “camera pyramids” mentioned above aren’t much of a secret, you can turn them on and off with the on-screen button shown here. (Technically, these pyramids are called “frusta,” which is why the keyboard equivalent is “F”). The point of each pyramid is the point at which the photograph was taken. The distance that the pyramid extends out from that point gives you an idea of the focal length of the camera that took the picture, relative to the other photographs in the collection. This picture shows a wide angle (stubby pyramid) and a telephoto (long pyramid) camera frusta. If you place the mouse cursor over a camera pyramid it will “project” out onto the point cloud, showing you the section of the model that the photograph depicts. Clicking on the pyramid will navigate to that photo. 

    Innovation in Action
    I hope you enjoy using Photosynth as much as we enjoyed creating the technology. Further collaborations between university academic researchers, Microsoft Research, and Microsoft product groups will bring forth more innovative photo-related experiences. So keep your eye on the Microsoft Photography Blog for the latest news.

    – Bryan Ressler (Software Engineer)

    Photosynth System Requirements

  • Operating System: Only Windows XP SP2 and Windows Vista RC1 or later are supported at this time.

  • Web Browser: IE6 or IE7; we hope to support other browsers in the future.

  • Memory: 256 MB of memory is a bare minimum; 1GB recommended.

  • Disk: This technology preview uses almost no disk space. The ActiveX control is less than 5MB in size, and no local disk storage is used when the code is running.

  • Graphics: We have tested Photosynth on graphics cards that are “Vista Aero Ready”. This includes: support for DirectX 9 graphics with a WDDM driver, 128 MB of graphics memory (minimum), and 32 bits per pixel. If you want to find out whether your card is suitable, the Vista Upgrade Advisor tool will tell you. Photosynth may run on cards that do not meet this requirement, but performance may be poor and functionality may be impaired.

  • Comments (4)

    1. anony.muos says:

      Hey Pix team, please tell me if Photo Gallery and themed slideshows are present in Vista Business Edition.

    2. SeanMcLeod says:

      Is it possible to view more than 1 image at a time in 3D mode? Presently when you select a different image there is a fade effect from the current image to the next image.

      I tried ctrl-click when selecting a new image to see if that would continue displaying the current image plus the newly selected image.

    3. SdosRemedios says:

      I’d like to use this on a research project for NSF in place of laser scanning. Is there a preliminary version available for non-profit research?