At Microsoft, we have a research organization focused on different aspects of computer science that we call MSR (Microsoft Research). We started this effort back in 1991 and in my opinion, our research group has done a fantastic job of balancing the long-term research focus with the need to translate ideas into reality (take the innovative research work and apply that to the products we develop) so that our customers can benefit from the break-through research efforts in a timely manner.
Microsoft Research (MSR) team is hard at work on several different areas - Graphics and Imaging being one of the hot areas. Several MSR innovations have made their way into Microsoft products including a cool photo-stitching feature in Microsoft Acrylic. Scanned images or photographs usually capture a limited amount of information, forcing us to take multiple scans/photos of a panoramic view or a large original image. Microsoft Acrylic provides one of the best image-stitching features by seamlessly combining multiple images. This feature was a direct result of our collaboration with MSR. Here is an example of what you can do with photo-stitching.
In future versions of pro designer products, we hope to leverage and ship several other innovations from the MSR Graphics team e.g. Lumigraphs, Surface Textures and Virtual Viewpoint Videos. A Lumigraph will allow you to an object from multiple angles. Like a hologram, the MSR Graphics group has developed an algorithm that dynamically produces lumigraph structures from a set of unstructured images. In case of Surface Textures, they have developed the ability to create textures over arbitrary surface meshes. The method can identify interesting regions in a 2-D example and repeatedly paste it onto a surface until it is completely covered. Virtual Viewpoint Videos enable designers to easily recreate scenarios from the movie ‘Matrix’. Designers can freeze time and change the viewpoint providing a 3D experience, while the video is playing. Check out the video that the MSR team submitted to SIGGRAPH-04 as well as their paper.