Get all your questions answered about our latest Photosynth Technical Preview.
Can we expect a WebGL viewer for original photosynths and stitched panoramas when Photosynth 2 emerges from Technical Preview status?
I'm mainly wanting some confirmation that older uploads won't simply fall through the cracks as older viewer technologies become obsolete.
We definitely are planning on fully supporting arbitrary resolution stitched panos in webGL. Original synths are more doubtful. They'll definitely live on in Silverlight, but whether we enhance them at all or port them to webGL is not yet clear.
The problem is that the Silverlight viewer never achieved the rendering speed of the original Direct3D viewer.
On the other hand, the Silverlight viewer added Highlights, Paths, + Overhead View.
Now that we finally have GPU access again with WebGL, original synths don't even get a WebGL port of the older viewers.
I understand that you're wanting to move on + do new things + that from your perspective the tight clean structures of new synths are the right direction to move in...
Let me ask you this: if you are never going to use the Direct3D viewer again and never update the Silverlight viewer (for obvious reasons) would you be willing to open source the viewers so that your fans could port all the performance of the D3D viewer + features of the Silverlight viewer to WebGL?
That way, it could be added via a 3rd party browser extension for those who want to substitute it for the Silverlight viewer or you could adopt it officially if it met your standards.
If I understand correctly, then Microsoft is phasing out Silverlight in general. IE11 metro is not supporting Silverlight.
I have the impression that many traditional Synths cannot be converted/ported to one of the new formats, because they do not have a clear path. Users would have to break up their synths and resynth manually, unless you are going to support more synth types, like multiple panos in the synth and walk-and-look-around-panos. I have no clue about numbers for synths per user, but I suspect that there are many users who have quit a lot. Not supporting to view existing synths as they are might offend a significant number of your best supporters.
@Joscelin, you're right about Silverlight being phased out.
Although Windows Phone 7 apps were a version of Silverlight (not the most recent at the time, mind you) there was never any Silverlight support in Internet Explorer on Windows Phone, Windows 8 (Metro) / RT, XBOX 360, or XBOX ONE.
That means that on the vast majority of Microsoft's own platforms there is no way to view older synths via the Silverlight viewer or the Direct3D viewer.
To be fair, even if there is a port of the older synth viewers to WebGL, it would not be viewable in IE on Windows xp or Windows Vista or Windows Phone 7 or Windows Phone 8.0 or on XBOX 360 since none of them have IE 11 and therefore do not have WebGL support (although Windows xp and Vista users can at least install Firefox, Opera, or Chrome).
Also, if an open source photosynth viewer is made, it could be ported to native apps for any platform without WebGL support in Internet Explorer.
All of that to say that your case that no new viewer means that they will become increasingly inaccessible is a strong one.
Even though Internet Explorer 11 still has support for ActiveX plugins (like the Direct3D photosynth viewer), it (by default) will not load the page with the D3D viewer on it unless you use F12 to open IE's Developer Tools, go to the bottom tab on the left, and change IE's user agent to that of Internet Explorer 10 or lower.
Above, the Photosynth team says, "Original synths are more doubtful. They'll definitely live on in Silverlight, but whether we enhance them at all or port them to webGL is not yet clear." and Joscelin said, "...many traditional Synths cannot be converted/ported to one of the new formats, because they do not have a clear path."
To be clear: I'm not necessarily asking that old synths be converted to the new synth types or enhanced.
I'd be happy to have the old viewers ported to a modern performant graphics standard.
I hear a lot about how terrible the Silverlight viewer is to use with touch.
Believe me, I see the improvements, but having said that, I clearly remember Greg Pascale's iSynth app for iOS which I used on my brother's iPhone for countless hours. Was it the best interface ever? Probably not? But it didn't even have Seadragon/Deep Zoom in it and I still used that thing like crazy. It allowed me to search for synths, search for users, view any photosynth (even if every photo was just a thumbnail resolution - the early iPhone screens weren't all that high a resolution anyway so when viewing the whole photo, it didn't matter, especially if someone took photos walking closer to a subject), and gave me an awesome little mode where I could see just the point cloud and the camera positions and rotate and pan through it, making it super great for figuring out how other people were shooting synths. Add Seadragon back in and I'll use that thing on a touch screen for years.
When I look at the four new synth types, I see building blocks.
They're okay on their own, but they're only really interesting once you start putting them together.
I cannot begin to say how many original photosynths were nothing more than a single panorama-style shoot, so those will easily convert to parallax panoramas.
My favorite Photosynth 1 synths were a hybrid of Spins and Walks, with maybe a parallax panorama thrown in now and again.
I think most of those types of synth would convert fairly cleanly into something built out of the new synth types.
Again, although that would be cool to see, at present I'm more concerned with ensuring that original synths are viewable as they originally were, but in a graphics standard that works on more devices (and isn't likely to disappear) and without the rubbish performance of the Silverlight viewer (and possibly with iSynth's orbit mode added back in for good measure).
Are there other synthers who care, how big is our preview community today anyway?