Topic: what's the difference of photosynth and panorama?

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azuretttc (Over 1 year ago)
I have heard that someone want to use photosynth to sell real estate and demonstrate shops. However, I have seen similar products using panorama. I think the panorama works really well and even seems better than photosynth on that (it does not have any ghost effects on images). And panorama doesn't even have to install silverlight.
  So I'm wondering if photosynth can be used as a real product. Or even some firms want to pay for the product?
Nathanael (Over 1 year ago)
Hello, Azuretttc, 

Photosynth can certainly be used in real estate and e-commerce. 

Panoramas are simple to use, but really aren't truly 3D, whereas a synth is. You could shoot multiple panoramas throughout a shop and click links on a website to load different locations, but this isn't as intuitive as having the entire shop be a synth that you can move around.

I will be the first to admit that shooting an excellent synth certainly takes more creativity and skill than shooting a good panorama, but if done properly can be much more engaging as you actually watch the camera float from one side of a shop to the other or from one room to another in a house.

Take a look at this synth:

Notice how you move from one highlight to the next without ever leaving the synth. Also try viewing overhead view to see the floorplan that Photosynth has created. Click anywhere in overhead view to visit it.
Nathanael (Over 1 year ago)
As to having to install Silverlight or not to view panoramas, there aren't yet very many good panorama viewers written in only Javascript (which wouldn't require any plugin at all). Most panorama viewers are written in Flash, some in Java (which isn't related to Javascript), some older ones in QuickTime, and now some in Silverlight. That may change in a few years' time, but we aren't at that point yet, so most panoramas still require an installation of some plugin.

None of these plugins are bad to have. The reason that they exist is that web browsers were originally created to view physics papers - not explore 3D cyberspace, so the browsers need other bits of code to help them do interesting things like play audio, video, and 3D graphics. The renewed push to adopt web standards and the increased power that HTML5 will certainly allow browsers to do more on their own, but plugins and extensions will always allow you to do more than the browser alone.
Nathanael (Over 1 year ago)
If you simply decide that until Photosynth matures a little more, you prefer panoramas, Photosynth did introduce panorama hosting earlier this year, so it can still meet your needs.

The truth is that for a high quality panorama or a high quality synth, you still need to hire a professional photographer who understands how to shoot the medium in order to get the best results, but any professional photographer worthy of hire should be able to create either a panorama or a synth that will aid in sales of property or products.

Back to your original question, though, the primary difference between a panorama and a synth is that the synth allows you to freely move all around a space whereas a panorama requires that you stand stock still and turn in place. 

I will be rather surprised if in ten years' time, synths do not look just as continuous as panoramas do today.

I'm not an official spokesperson, but those are my two cents on the matter.
azuretttc (Over 1 year ago)
Nathanael, thanks very much for your reply. I looked the synth you provided. It's great. However, I still can't understand why it's better than panorama for a estate selling. Because I think what a buyer want to see on the internet is:
1. the main structure of the interior
2. the interior layout and decoration of each room.
 for 1, although photosynth has an overlay point cloud, but it can not be manipulated in 3D like a trackball, so though it's perspective, it's not better than an overhead image in panorama which has icon anchor for each room which can be clicked. plus, the point cloud are not dense enough to tell the main structure
 for 2, although photosynth can provide many images for each room, it can not include the 360 degrees like a panorama. Also, the UI is not as easy as pano. plus, a 360 degree view without a moving in position is usually enough to view the room.
azuretttc (Over 1 year ago)
I'm not doubting photosynth is a 'cool' tech, however, I can't see its advantages to panorama which is quite popular at present.
Also, for e-commerce, it has two problems. 
1. it usually does not work for many objects which has salient SIFT features
2. photosynth can provide "rotation" click mode, however, it's not better than a quicktime object movie using panorama.
 I think the most feature it has is to provide point cloud, but for a buyer or a seller, point cloud even 3D model is not so useful to pay for photosynth(as a business model)
 In fact, I'm dounting whether MS is going to earn from photosynth, and how many photosynths is on the web? How many users keep using this service? I'm looking up the alexa ranking of photosynth, and it's only 41,769 which means not so many users using it.
azuretttc (Over 1 year ago)
so, what's the future of photosynth? will it bring income for Microsoft? I doubt, Will it become another 'cool' technology but may die in several years? maybe,hope not!!
azuretttc (Over 1 year ago)
I like this new tech and product, it's a great innovation. But most consumers loving it is important. All I see on the internet is photosynth 'can be' used in realestate, e-commerce, education, store exibition, gallery show ...... 
  However, 'can be' used is not enough, I think willing to pay for the service decides whether this technology is going to live or die. Are real estate seller and online goods seller really willing to pay for the service, now or even future? I cannot see any evidence.
Nathanael (Over 1 year ago)
ツ I hear your criticisms and I'm certain that the Photosynth team does as well.

I believe that improving the ease of Photosynth's navigation is their absolute top priority at the moment. (See this blog post: ) It will be interesting to see what they bring to the table this fall.

The Photosynth team has been talking for some time about their desire to link synths together and I am hoping that means panoramas linking to photosynths as well. I would love to make a synth of a house which has an actual 360 degree panorama in the middle of each room, viewable without leaving the synth.
Nathanael (Over 1 year ago)
As to rotating the point cloud like a trackball... actually, you can! It is true that in overhead view, the camera position is locked to above, but in any case where you have an orbit of photos, as you would for an object movie in QTVR, a handle (previously a torus|halo and now two circular arrows) will appear which you can click and drag to rotate the entire scene around that object. 

As to being able to see the layout of a room or house in the point cloud, this is largely a function of which photos are taken. If your photographer shoots for this, you will be able to see it. 

Shooting photos for panoramas and object movies in QTVR and similar tech is a highly calibrated way of shooting in order to get clean results and of course, although Photosynth works with unstructured photography, it can, of course, do better with structured photography (provided that there is parallax between the shots). This shouldn't surprise anyone.
Nathanael (Over 1 year ago)
I suppose that asking whether Photosynth will stick around makes me smile a bit. Computer vision is going to be a huge new and growing field and Photosynth is near the core of Microsoft's efforts in this direction. If nothing else, they get a large amount of mostly Creative Commons licensed photos of public places from all over the globe to test their latest reconstruction algorithms on at no expense to them, aside from hosting costs. 

As to whether Photosynth is making Microsoft money, you can see that there are no advertisements here on the site and the only way that the Photosynth team brings in any money is by their users who want to use Photosynth commercially purchasing a commercial license from the Bing Maps team. I think that the information able to be gathered by Photosynth is of larger value than any dollar value which could be inserted into this conversation. This is similar to asking how much Google's web crawling brings in per year.
Nathanael (Over 1 year ago)
I suppose that lastly I wonder a little at your asking whether people will be willing to pay for Photosynth. I would tend to say try it out first and only once your traffic exceeds that allowed on a free account (at this point it should be clear that Photosynth is going to work for you, popularity-wise), would you then approach them for a commercial license. 

I am no lawyer, so I can't tell you whether that falls under intended usage, but I assume that the licensing team can understand a business wanting to prove the viability of a product before sinking a chunk of cash into it.

Also, the software needed from Apple to create a QTVR panorama or object movie is not generally the main cost of operations of creating those outputs, but rather the photographer which must continually shoot more houses. Similarly, to buy a commercial Photosynth license, the main cost is going to be hiring a photographer who understands how to shoot synths and panos.
Nathanael (Over 1 year ago)
Oh... I almost forgot your point above, namely: 
"1. it usually does not work for many objects which has salient SIFT features."

It is a fundamental assumption of Photosynth and a lot of other structure from motion software that things stay still. Whether the thing is flexible or solid, the assumption is that they are, at the time of being photographed, standing still. This is because one is attempting to calculate the distance between any two detected keypoints. If that distance changes over time, then one cannot use any of those moving points to get a good rendering of the shape of the scene, unless one can detect individual objects (or even parts of objects) and track them independently of the rest of the scene.

It is true that needing things to stand still is a limitation of Photosynth's current ability to reconstruct things, but I don't believe that it's a limitation that panoramas solve, as moving objects in photos for panos would result in stitching errors.
OmniSynThesis (Over 1 year ago)
Interesting conversation you two had, thanks.
Madhanan (Over 1 year ago)