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3D Virtual Reconstructions From Microsoft 134

Lord Satri writes "New around the corner, Microsoft Live Labs' Photosynth, will 'take a large collection of photos of a place or object, analyzes them for similarities, and displays them in a reconstructed 3-Dimensional space.' There's a demonstrational video and a 'smart photos' example page. From the site Very Spatial: 'The word is that Photosynth will be available for free, at least at first, but no word yet on an exact release date.' I must admit, seems like Photosynth may offer interesting features with an clean interface. This tool will directly compete with Stitcher, and to some extent, Google SketchUp. The virtual world reconstruction tools market is getting crowded, and competition is good. Microsoft doesn't yet have software to tie a photo library with Windows Live Local (Google does), but don't be surprised if it comes to life."
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3D Virtual Reconstructions From Microsoft

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  • by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @11:06AM (#15824945) Homepage Journal
    If this software is half as good as the famous: "Dear Aunt, let's set so double the killer delete select all.", then we at least should be able to use it to create Escher like visual paradoxes, but if anyone is hoping to seriously convert a few pictures of themselves into 3d models, they may find themselves in a Dali like nightmare.
  • by gasmonso ( 929871 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @11:06AM (#15824946) Homepage

    This basically looks like Google Earth based on user photos and not satellite photos. I find it quite interesting, but a little too much of a gimmick right now. Pixel zooming into a picture is NOT the same as diving into the scene and looking around like its a virtual world. []
    • by zootm ( 850416 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @11:29AM (#15825117)

      This isn't really pixel zooming, it "zooms" by determining which of the pictures of the scene it has is closest to the view selected by the user, and switching to that one, rather than zooming in on a specific image. So if you, for example, select to view the head of a statue from a picture of that statue, it looks for a picture of the head of statue, then views that. It's pretty neat.

      • by mrxak ( 727974 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @11:44AM (#15825214)
        Man-made objects should be pretty easy for software to put together. We tend to build things in a non-random fashion. I'd be a lot more interested to see how well this software works with natural objects like trees (blowing in the wind, no less) than it works with buildings.
        • I'm not sure that's what it's really designed for, but you're right that it would be interesting. I'm not sure how automatic the system is in creating its scenes (although to be honest I didn't read a lot of the article, I've just played with the online demo thing for a while).

          • Heh, all I did was watch the video, and my computer's volume was even muted. But from what it looked like, they were simply using man-made landmarks to show off the software, which considering how symetrical and pattern-based man-made constructions tend to be, I wasn't terribly impressed. Still, if it's free and easy to get, I might try it out someday.
            • I'm sure there's an interactive demo (of at least one of the features, from reading some of the blurb it looks like it might just be part of it) kicking around somewhere. It's a neat little program in any case, but I'm really not sure if it's even designed to handle non man-made things with any real degree of accuracy.

  • by KDN ( 3283 )
    Does anyone know of any open source photo stichers? And by the way, what does NASA use to generate those awesome collages that they produce?
  • Real Estate (Score:4, Interesting)

    by brunes69 ( 86786 ) <slashdot@keirstead. o r g> on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @11:06AM (#15824948) Homepage
    This software could revolutionize buying real estate remotely. Imagine, an agent goes in with a cheap digicam and takes a bunch of shots of the house they're selling. They load them into this software which creates a 3D, navigable model of the house, which someone can browse via a browser plugin.

    Sure, this has been around for a while with VRML, but it was complicated and costly for an agent to do. From the looks of this software you can use normal photos as a base. Anyone could create 3D tours with this.

    • I am currently househunting and I've seen many "virtual tour" examples on even the most rustic of rural english estate agent sites.
    • Not quite. This software takes two dimentional images, basically mapping them to walls. While this works out for a panorama type deal that gives you a 3D perspective rather than the warped perspective usually you usually get with panoramic picutures.

      However it is not particularily 3D and wouldn't give you much in the way of a navigatable model of a house. It would work for taking shots and allowing the user to view the everything without the aforementioned warping. But actually moving arround, no, it wouldn

    • Re:Real Estate (Score:3, Informative)

      by Phat_Tony ( 661117 )
      If you're a real-estate agent, it's not really that big of an investment to buy a Kaidan 360 lens. [] It only takes a few seconds to take a picture with, and you only have to snap one picture. Their software builds a quicktime VR of the environment. In my opinion, a quicktime VR gives a better presentation of an environment than what was seen in the MS software anyway. The only benefit to the MS stuff is that it will let you zoom in on particular features you photographed more close-up, where I believe that Qu
      • Re:Real Estate (Score:3, Informative)

        by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) *
        The only benefit to the MS stuff is that it will let you zoom in on particular features you photographed more close-up

        It doesn't just let you zoom in (which, by the way, Quicktime VR can do too); it lets you look at the scene from any arbitrary perspective. It's the difference between just standing still and looking around in Quake and actually running around the level.

        • Yes, I know quicktime lets you zoom in, but that's not what I'm talking about. I said Quicktime only supports one resolution all the way around- you can't have some one object in the image be much higher resolution and support zooming in on that object while the rest of the VR remains blocky. The entire image is one resolution, and you just get to pan around and zoom in and out of that image. The MS stuff lets you have close-up photos of individual features, so you could zoom in to read the fine print on so
          • As for running around a 3d environment- it wasn't clear from their demo to what extent it lets you do that.

            Not from their demo, per se, but from their website: "If you've ever played a 3D game you already know how to use Photosynth."

            Furthermore, creating a complete floorplan of a house would require you to have overlapping pictures of the whole thing- every bit of hallway wall, etc. I'm guessing it would take hundreds of shots to allow it to stitch a house together, which sounds like a lot more work than w

  • by Anonymous Coward
    What about cars and people that change from picture to picture? It's not possible to match them. Does their reconstruction algorithm try to erase them, or to merge them?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      If you watch the linked video (which is definitely interesting and the main example demoed is of a square containing many bystanders, by the way) you will see that the software blends photos together. Presumably it does a lot of color matching and softening of hard seams. When the camera moves from picture to picture in the virtual space, people and cars sometimes fade in/out, but it's not jarring and is somewhat hidden in the shift in aspect.
    • Ahh, but it's only a matter of time until they add streaming webcam support for it.
  • Escher (Score:3, Funny)

    by gEvil (beta) ( 945888 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @11:07AM (#15824956)
    What happens if you throw some Escher drawings at it?
  • by Weaselmancer ( 533834 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @11:08AM (#15824962)

    Deckard: Enhance 224 to 176. Enhance, stop. Move in, stop. Pull out, track right, stop. Center in, pull back. Stop. Track 45 right. Stop. Center and stop. Enhance 34 to 36. Pan right and pull back. Stop. Enhance 34 to 46. Pull back. Wait a minute, go right, stop. Enhance 57 to 19. Track 45 left. Stop. Enhance 15 to 23. Give me a hard copy right there.

    • by radarsat1 ( 786772 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @11:18AM (#15825027) Homepage
      But keep in mind Microsoft's speech recognition woes..

      A more likely transaction might be: "Enhance 224 to 176. Enhance, stop. Stop. STOP. Dear aunt? Move in, stop. Pull out. No, pull OUT. Pull out. Pullllll out. DAMN IT. Dear aunt? Track right. No, RIGHT. Whoa.. okay... left. Pull left. LEFT. STOP. FUCK!"
    • I never quite understood how that photo-magnification/voice-recognition machine that Deckard uses could reveal an object that's behind ANOTHER object in the original (apparently 2-dimensional) photo. Did photos grow a 3rd dimension and cameras the ability to see around objects? Does Deckard have a giant fiber-optic periscope?
      • I never quite understood how that photo-magnification/voice-recognition machine that Deckard uses could reveal an object that's behind ANOTHER object in the original (apparently 2-dimensional) photo.

        I don't know how much processing power it would take, but if I were going to write software like that, it would:

        - Build up a basic 3D model of the room based on what's visible in the photo.
        - "Sketch in" the missing parts using a combination of interpolation and looking at cast shadows.
        - Map the known colours fro
  • I have to say, this would be pretty neat - take all of the images on Google Images for instance and be able to take a high-def virtual tour of places around the world.

    Be sure to check out PlayAnywhere [] too - another neat tech that's being made over at Microsoft Research.

  • Looks like panarama software on crack. Lots of legal implications I would think - depending on how the photo's are shared or linked - since it is taking photo's that you may or may not have shot and combining them all together - the question might be "who owns the final composite?".

    Looks amazing though - can't wait to see it come out.

    • IANAL ... and I'm really pleased I'm not! Man, who cares? Is this all people think now?

      "Oh cool. Imagine the fun the lawyers will have with this"

      Theres been plenty of cases regarding who owns images when a person or object is out in public. Enough already, /. is a tech site, not a friggen legal shit-fest.

      • I wasn't talking about who owns a likeness (building or otherwise) - if you watch the video - he specifically says that you might choose to zoom in to an area where you weren't able to capture enough detail. The software then automagically looks out in cyberspace to see who else might have captured the data. When it finds more source art, it recompiles it to the same perspective you were trying to view your original picture with. I'm looking at it from the perspective of a photographer.

        So the question is
  • This is doable, if this product is for real and sells at a good price it will be great. The only software that can do this right now is very expensive camera tracking tools, like :Bijou []
    • That company seems to be doing some amazing things in the area of computer vision. Their demo movies showed some scenes from tv and movies that I had seen, and wondered how they were done. I figured the makers of the scenes had had some way of superimposing computer graphics seamlessly over the real world images from a camera. It seems this companys software makes that possible by calculating how the camera moves through a 3d space. It seems that they even have a working realtime version for augmented reali []
  • by cerberusss ( 660701 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @11:19AM (#15825035) Homepage Journal
    Upload Natalie Portman.

    Then fly over her 3D body in realtime. Excellent!
  • A formerly despised and hated company actually ends up doing new neat stuff, whilst a new protaganist takes over, formerly loved as an underdog, treats everyone like crap and becomes hated.
    • A formerly despised and hated company actually ends up doing new neat stuff, whilst a new protaganist takes over, formerly loved as an underdog, treats everyone like crap and becomes hated.
      Now, who on Google Earth could you be thinking of?
  • Seems to me Microsoft keeps rolling out new applications just to prove that they can do betas too.... but with out any target. These toys, I'll call them toys cause they seem to server no inherent purpose, are applications looking for an audience. Correct me if I'm wrong but doesn't the wisdom of the ages dictate that first you find a need and then deliver a solution? Even ye' olde Buggy whip had a purpose during it's day.
    • Correct me if I'm wrong but doesn't the wisdom of the ages dictate that first you find a need and then deliver a solution?

      It depends on your goal. If your sole goal is to make money, they you are correct. As far as general scientific and technological advancement you are REALLY wrong.
    • Microsoft develops tons of experimental projects that are not meant to see the light of day (at least commercially) at Microsoft Research and MS Live Labs. Some of those are not publicly divulged, but are shown internally to other MS Employees. This is nothing new...
    • Research and Development

      Sometimes you do things, not to fulfill a specific task but to explore a concept or an idea, even. Lots of money is spent this way - not just by venture capitalists or companies looking to make a buck, but by research firms who have an honest interest in progressing the sciences - yes, eventually they will make money but in the short term research like this is important just for the sake of knowlege. Imagine for example the defense application. Send a UAV through a remote hostile l
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Microsoft's tradition of little R&D apps predates the existence of Google. Once upon a time, was just chock full of little goodies. Microsoft turned maybe 2% of them into products, and liscensed the other to third party companies (bit of trivia - iPod scroll wheel developed by Microsoft Research as a volume control for VoIP phones, they didn't use it and liscensed it out).

      The big difference is that Google started adding a limitted level of release support to their betas,
    • of course the bbc reported this and asked the obvious question, "who will use this and why?" The answer was:

      Dr Szeliski said:

      1. "I think the photo-sharing websites will be early-adopters of this technology. "Wherever people share photos, instead of just seeing a gallery of unorganised photos, now you can pull everyone else's photos together and make a rational sense out of it."
      2. The other obvious application, he added, would be for tourism and property, where a city could provide a virtual tour or a hote
    • Apparently this publicly announced and publicly available project can be considered R&D? Who knew that such applications which have been around for more than a decade in a commercially available and pretty much final form minus the 'social' aspect, would count as research and development = notice lowercase... that's how much I think of this concept.

      Did i really miss something of significance here or is this YASNT (Yet Another Social Networking Toy)?
  • REAL VIZ has been doing this stuff for years. They even have a few movies under their belt where their software has been used. []
    • REAL VIZ has been doing this stuff for years. They even have a few movies under their belt where their software has been used.

      I've never tried REAL VIZ, but from scoping out their web site it actually seems rather different. From the looks of it, REAL VIZ can either create a 2D panorama from several photos, or a 3D model based on a single photo. This new thing from Microsoft will allow you to create a 3D model aggregating the information from multiple photographs.
  • by danielsanII ( 925610 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @11:25AM (#15825081)
    Their website shows wikipedia [], not MSN Encarta :)
  • I know that I may get trolled down for this, but it looks like Microsoft has actually created a cool piece of software here. Granted, it is NOT true 3D worlds. However, I have taken enough photographs in places that do overlap that I think it will be a fun gimik. There are a couple of things I am wondering about. Will Microsoft be selling this software, or is it bundled with Vista? What type of processor do you need? How long does it take the computer to do the calculating and create these "Virtual 3D world
    • Also be interesting how it stiches together photos taken at different times. Then you could dive in spatially but also see something like a time lapse movie of how a structure evolves. If you have fine enough time resolution you can track how things move from frame to frame in your 3D model.

      So imagine a whole bunch of webcams around St. Peters taking snaps say every 30 secs and stiching this all together. You could see birds flying, people moving all in a 3D world. Does sound computationally intensive but w
  • ...but no word yet on an exact release date.

    Maybe it's being bundled with Vista. *snigger*
  • by jhfry ( 829244 )
    From what little I can make of everything I read, LiveLabs is more of a think tank that is funded by Microsoft. I don't believe they are even under much if any creative control by MS. I would think of this more like a small startup with an idea and an enormous budget... memories of the dotcom era.

    So because of this affiliation, MS comes out looking innovative and creative when it's merely a small team of appearently very creative developers who have probably never touched any code of any of MS's major inc
  • Why does this feel like MS is about to steal some other companies software and everyones digital media they produce? The video sounded like a MS Labs commercial or marketing an excuse for stealing before public out cry. Expect some EULA that says all our digital media belongs to MS but we can buy a license for it.
  • did you notice that the guys in the video do not show _how_ the 3d environment was made from the photos, they just give a nice presentation of assembled pictures. they probably spent hours on adjusting and calibrating the images. the automatic recognition of the marker points in the images will never be fully automatic - especially not if you consider all the low quality pictures of amateur photographs. probably there will be the user doing endless clicking as in those 3d reconstruction tools like imodelle
  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @11:36AM (#15825159) Homepage
    But this isn't even alpha. It's blogoware - concepts and a video trailer.

    Wake me up when it's over.

  • Right now this is basic research. Some potentially cool applications but nothing yet. Unsurprisingly, it's Microsoft doing the basic research anymore. I remember when other companies funded such things. Apple used to have an entire skunkworks dedicated to basic and advanced research. Sigh. Well, at least we'll be able to see the new and creative appear from the academic computing centers, it'll just run on Vista first.
  • Anybody else catch that bottle of Microsoft Brian Wash in the video? At least somebody's got a sense of humor of there...
    • Wow I butchered that post. Should say: "Anybody else catch that bottle of Microsoft Brain Wash in the video? At least somebody's got a sense of humor over there..."

    • "Microsoft Brian Wash"

      Any relation to Microsoft Bob?
    • Anybody else catch that bottle of Microsoft Brian Wash in the video? At least somebody's got a sense of humor of there
      Careful, you are entering the realms of slashdot heresy.

      For Bob's sake, don't let slip that any MS software but not be 100% evil, useless and bloated, for then you will be cast into the pit of Digg.

  • Apple's venerable QuickTime VR Authoring Studio was once the virtual reality application of choice. It would have been nice to have something like the photo editing machine thingy Rick Deckard (Harrison Volvo) used in Blade Runner built right into it. But sadly, Apple let QTVR Authoring Studio lose itself in time, like tears in rain...
  • by Ancil ( 622971 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @12:26PM (#15825505)
    Microsoft doesn't yet have software to tie a photo library with Windows Live Local (Google does), but don't be surprised if it comes to life."

    OK, I won't be surprised.

    I also won't be surprised when slashdotters gush and fawn over Google's product, then go ape-shit over Microsoft "tying" a software product to Windows Live Local.
  • by seven of five ( 578993 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @12:39PM (#15825600)
    I can see where this would be a big help in investigations, journalistic, scientific, criminal, etc. Reconstructing a 3-D scene would help understand where people and things were when something happened.

    Today there are mic's placed in some high crime areas that identify a gunshot and where it happened. Cameras placed at strategic locations would complete the "picture".
  • A very nifty tool, not very well known: []
  • "What is that tower called? Just photograph it.
    Photosynth could eventually connect you to everything on the Web related to it."

    Replace 'tower' with 'picture of naked girl' and you realise the real possibilities.......
  • by Chairboy ( 88841 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @01:02PM (#15825813) Homepage
    The next logical step (as the algorithms improve, hardware gets faster, and demand grows) will be to do the same with video. See f.gif [] to see a cursory example of how motion picture data can be used to build a persistent environment.

    Another poster earlier in the thread speculated that a real estate agent could photo a house to make a virtual tour. Even better, maybe, would be to just carry a high def video camera of some sort through the house, waving it around to get at least a little bit of footage of everything. With that data, an intelligent program could composite a 3D representation with even fewer blackout spots. Combine this with an accelerometer/gyro field that gives a non-software correlation to the video stream, and it's essentially bulletproof.

    In the form demonstrated, this is a fantastic heavy duty software solution, but physical tracking data would both make this job easier and improve the quality.

    I suspect that in the near future we will see the following technologies made ubiquitous in cameras:
    1. GPS
    2. Tilt/Compass
    3. Accelerometer/motion tracking for video.

    Items 1 and 2 would enable any camera to provide very accurate geo-located data. #3 with video gives you tracking where GPS fails plus the super accurate tracking data needed to take this to the next level.

    "But Chairboy, you tool, why would the camera companies go to the expense?"

    The features listed have become incredibly cheap (both in cost and power consumption) over the past few years. Within a couple years, it'll probably be hard to NOT have them in one of the shared chipsets the camera manufacturers use, and at that point, why fight it?
  • (And this is probably off-topic, but what the hell)

    Anyone know of software that can take 2 (or more) digital pics of, say, a person's face from slightly different angles and then try to make a 3d model of it? I assume it exists, I just have no idea what it would be called.

    Tried googling, and am getting a bajillion results for stuff that just isn't related.

    Anyway, it would be really quite interesting to see the tiling software like this coupled with the perspective/parallax type of 3d modelling and ultra hig
  • From the abstract I thought at first this was something like Canoma [] (developed by Kai Krause's MetaCreations, then bought by Adobe, then - dropped?). With it you could make and texturize(!) 3D models from a photograph. Actually it was even working with comics.
  • I wrote something about using this technology to build massive 3D maps, with photo repositories such as flickr [].
  • by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) * on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @01:25PM (#15826022) Journal
    I'm rather curious to see how well their approach scales. For example, what if you just dumped all the 1,853 photos of Times Square from Flickr [] into their interface? Scaling even more, in the future could one use this to aggregate all the photos in a particular city, or even have a Google Earth-like interface aggregating photos from all over the globe and integrating it with satellite data? There's some interesting computational problems with arise in trying to find correspondence between that many visual features.

    I'm also like to see if they can deal with pictures taken at different times of day. I'm guessing it's still too difficult to actually adapt a day image to a night image, so it'd probably just end up treating photos taken at different times of day as different scenes.
    • It will take probably 1.5 weeks, and the result will contain some 400 of these images.
      The result will however be good.

      Don't even think of doing it with just some 20 pictures. You need a full coverage! Best hire some professionals for that, and maybe a cluster to compute it a bit faster than in 10 days.

      (The Notre Dame example they had took two weeks on a 3.4 GHz computer. That was some 2500 images, of which only 500 ended up in the result).

      No, nothing for your aunt^Wmommy and her holiday photos.
    • Why stop at different times of the day? The effect of light on an object, or it's perceived color under different colors/intensities of light would be a nice addition.

      Even better, integrate time stamps and see the long-term effects of time (e.g. erosion, rust) on an object from any angle.
  • Actually it's not particular "microsoft" research, but University of Washington: []
    Their video is also MUCH better. Much more impressive, they show some very cool features Microsoft did not. Still, both videos only show the User Interface. Not the calculation of the dataset. It is however no secret that Microsoft PhotoSynth is basically this with a different UI. Or maybe completely the same. (Notice that the Microsoft name is both present on the PhotoTour homepage and t
  • Another application for software like this - doing reconstruction work on historical/artistic/cultural sites.
  • why stop with photos? as technology continues to leap, having a real-time "computer" navigable model of data via cameras would allow intelligence to capture and process data.

    where would these cameras be? why would they have to be mechanical, why not biological cameras? insects, or "bugs", that have been genetically designed to transmit their image data over "wifi". and who would have control of the data? net neutrality?
  • Microsoft related website showing image of wikipedia?? []


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