Tuesday, August 07, 2007

PhotoSynthetic Shuttle

Here's a cool way to get a much closer look at the Endeavour on pad 39A, among other NASA-related image collections. PhotoSynth from Microsoft Live Labs is a new way to link, navigate through, and display the information in visual images. With a mediocre hotel web connection, this "technology preview" is intriguing though not totally compelling, but if you really want to see the potential of this technology, take a look at this TED Conference video from March 2007, featuring one of its architects. The examples he demonstrates are not space related (any collection of images of some subject can be linked and explored in PhotoSynth), but they are really impressive, especially the depiction of Notre Dame in Paris from a whole bunch of Flickr photos with the subject "Notre Dame". He clearly has a better web connection than I do (more likely all his images are stored locally).

More important than the slick interface is the ability of the software to analyze the images themselves to find similarities and to use these to assign the images to their proper place in the world to define the collection that depicts the subject. The ability to quickly and smoothly zoom in to see tiny details in the high resolution images is also important for the "you are there" experience. For a more in depth discussion of PhotoSynth, see yesterday's Cosmic Log. Alan Boyle mentions that NASA engineers are interested in using this technology to stitch together the many digital photos that are taken for shuttle in-flight safety inspection, among other things.

No comments: