From Microsoft Labs: Coming To A Computer Near You

A caveat, right off the bat: if you’re not running a Vista or Vista-ready machine with a fast processor and a lot of RAM (at least 1 GB) and Windows XP or Vista, don’t even watch this, because you’ll probably cry. If you are, read on.

Microsoft Live Labs bought Seadragon last year, a company that developed an algorithm for smoothing greatly enlarged images past the pixel level (by interpolation, I guess). This allows you to zoom into an image at a speed and with detail that’s largely limited by bandwidth and monitor resolution, seeing much more than you could normally. That’s about all I know about it, except that it works. Boy, does it work!

Microsoft has taken that technology and paired it with Photosynth, code that examines a bunch of photographs (say, 5000?), detects similarities, and creates a 3-dimensional matrix. Let’s say that you and a few hundred other people posted images of the Taj Mahal on Flickr. All of those could be combined into a matrix, and you could start at your own image and, clicking on ghost images that appear when you move your mouse, examine all the other photos from their various distances and angles, zooming in when you wish via Seadragon (now incorporated with Photosynth) and literally viewing the Taj through the eyes and cameras of all the other photographers.

This exists now! I was using it fifteen minutes ago. You can view a tech demonstration video here. (Thanks to Steve Bass at “PC Tips and Tweaks” for sending this one.) Then, by going here, you can download a browser plug-in that will allow you to view various collections that Microsoft has posted on your own computer, subject to the performance limitations of your PC and with a fast connection. It works beautifully with a 3.2 Pentium D, XP Pro, 2 GB of RAM and a 6 mb DSL connection. Your results may vary, but OMG! The vistas (excuse the expression) that this technology opens up for social and commercial image file sharing — and stuff I haven’t thought of yet — are simply mind-boggling. Note: this is a tech demo — pre-Beta — so there could be a few rough edges.

You will notice that I haven’t panned Microsoft once in this article , unheard of for me (well, there’s the “vista” remark), but that’s because, this time, it’s doing what the world’s biggest software company should be doing: improving technology by leaps and bounds, instead of holding it back looking for easy profits. Gotta give it this one.

Enjoy!

[tags]Microsoft, Seadragon, Photosynth, Image Processing, TED, Image Sharing[/tags]