Microsoft’s amazing Photosynth™ technology went live on Thursday of this week. It’s intended to create a pseudo-3D viewing experience from large numbers of overlapping photographs of a scene, both distant and close-up. I thought it would be fun to try it out with a completely synthetic scene – our recruiting center in Second Life (click here to visit it in your Second Life client). The scenes are embeddable in a web page, but the WordPress.com editor doesn’t allow the iframe tag for security reasons, so you’ll have to check it out here.
Photosynth gets some parts of it right, but mostly it gets confused by this transparent building, large blank areas like the sky, and dense occluding textures like the metal grid on the stairway. The user manual advises that these will cause problems. Hence the score of 68% “synthy”, which might be a little generous.
A Better Result
In the next test, I photographed the interior of one room in my little house in Second Life. There’s not a lot of decoration in the room, but the textures outside the windows should provide ample cues for texture matching. You can see the result here. Clearly this is much more successful. Photosynth scores it at 100% “synthy”.
Photosynth has the potential to present your virtual world creations in pseudo-3D to a business audience that can’t run a virtual world client behind a corporate firewall. Given the propensity of the citizens of Second Life to take photos and post them to Flickr, I predict that Photosynth will become a major destination for virtual photographers. I also predict that the Photosynth team will have to create a separate area for virtual photography since these photos will not have real-world geographic coordinates. It’s also possible that they could tweak their algorithms for synthetic photographs.