Exploring photos in 3D

How do you keep one step ahead of your students? When they are used to living in a multimedia rich world, are you finding it increasingly difficult to grab them and engage them? I know that I find my own children don’t want to sit through a 300 photograph slide show any more...but I’ve found a way to fool them. Read on…

imageclip_image002First there was the holiday snapshot, and then my parents bought a slide projector. Well, it all went downhill from there for a while. But then things brightened up with video cameras. For a little while things seemed to get better. And then I started to get tired of some of the boring holiday videos (How much ‘BuffetCam’ can you stand?)

So here’s a way to get students to (a) view a 300 photo slideshow and (b) become immersed in creating their own. Faculty all over the campus will be interested in this - archaeology, architecture, geology, design, art...

It’s Photosynth, which allows you to build a 3D model of a place or object from static photographs. I’ve found I can while away half an hour easily, exploring somebody else’s model of St Marks Square, Stonehenge or even a Ferrari 575 Superamerica.

While writing this, I discovered that the website had tripped up, simply through getting too much traffic, so if the same happens again, then watch this video of Blaise Aguera demonstrating it whilst you’re waiting for service to be resumed!

And now Photosynth has been fully released, it gets better. You can use Photosynth to turn regular digital photos into a three-dimensional, 360-degree model. And you can then share your synth with others – who can walk in your shoes through the same place. The technology does the hard work – reconstructing the scene or object from your flat photos – by looking for similarities between images, and using it to estimate the shape of the space/object, and work out the original camera position.

To create your own synth sign in to http://photosynth.com, download the synther application and viewer. And start building.


Which must be what Rick did – he’s obviously proud of his shed, as he’s built a complete model of the outside, and you can walk into the inside and look around. Take a look at the Rick’s Shed synth to see what I mean!

And so, here’s my challenge

I know that many of you will have been busy changing things in your IT systems this summer, and some of you will be the proud owners of new servers, networks and equipment. I’ve also been busy over the summer – building up my stocks of goodies. And I’m prepared to give away a bag of goodies – including a handful of 4GB memory sticks and a little pile of software boxes, for the best synth of either the room you spend your day in or a building on campus that you’re proud of (inside or out)*. Grab your cameras, build the synth, and then post the URL as a comment (and email me too).

You can even embed a Photosynth object onto a web page – so you could introduce potential students to your university or college on your website.

* Oh, I bet there should be some small print here about the rules. So here goes. I decide. I send the goody bag. Humour gets bonus points. Unlike with my kids, my decision is final.

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