Remember in Blade Runner, where Deckard (Harrison Ford) tells a computer to zoom in and move around a photo until he finds a mirror image of a replicant? Well, the word from Wired is that Microsoft is achieving similar effects with two technologies demonstrated this week at the International Virtual Reality Photography Conference.
I'm really not sure what the business value will be - unless you're a Blade Runner, of course - but it's fascinating technology. As the pictures on Wired show, you can zoom into a landscape shot of Seattle until you have a close-up of the Space Needle, where you can see people hanging out on the deck. Unlike Blade Runner - where we're lead to believe he manages this within a single photo - Microsoft manages the feat by synthesizing about 800 images taken from a zoom camera on a motorized telescope tripod. The technology here is Microsoft's HD View, which allows users to display and interact with very large images.
The second technology, called Photosynth, uses ordinary pictures taken from a variety of sources, but uses a visual algorithm to link distinctive features together and build a 3-D image. The Wired article includes links to online demos from Microsoft Live Labs. You can explore 3-D images of buildings in Britain, artist Gary Faigin at work in his Seattle studio, the Piazza San Marco in Venice and South Korea's Gyeongbok Palace.