New features, updated old ones and general news from the Photosynth team.
Hi synthers --
For the last hour we've been in the midst of making an update to the Photosynth site. You'll see quite a few changes already (especially on the view page), but the biggest new feature (panorama support) is not quite working. Please check this thread, and our blog, later today for a full summary of what we've done. Hope you like it!
David Gedye, Photosynth Group Program Manager
The update is complete. Read all about it here:http://blogs.msdn.com/photosynth/archive/2010/03/18/buttery-smooth-gigapixel-panoramas.aspx.
Looking forward to hearing your opinions!
Here's the link again, since the forums appended the full stop to the end of the URL.
The very best thing that I see so far is that highlights finally do what I always assumed they would. I have yet to put it through its paces, but I can't wait!
David, congrats to you and the team, some cracking revisions and additions.
Great news on the highlights and possible we are one step closer to hotlinking within synths to other synths as I posted here? - http://tinyurl.com/yl6z4z7
Could I clarify with someone that the selecting the starting view "Images and point cloud" has been removed?!
Yeh, Rev., ...confirmed. How irritating.
I can understand the desire to change the default viewing mode since many point clouds aren't exactly adding so much to the photos experience, but, honestly, the three viewing modes remain, so which one is used for initial loading should remain in the hands of the author.
As it stands, there is now no way for me to choose the default experience of photos in the context of the pointcloud. To be perfectly frank, in terms of desirability, one photo at a time in the context of the pointcloud would be preferable to photos in the context of only other photos in many cases, since it is moreorless impossible to align photos taken from very definitely different points in space. Don't get me wrong; I don't want photos in the context of other photos taken away; but neither do I like the ability to show individual photos within the larger context of the pointcloud as the default view taken away.
For those of use who have typed out instructions to our viewers on how to switch viewing modes, a change like this requires that we go back and manually review and edit each of our synth descriptions to fit the current defaults and layout.
This brings up another point which is:
If a default view mode is changed (let alone removed as a starting option for a synth) then, provided that photos + points is ever restored to us as an option for the initial view mode, it is worth thinking about a larger scale editing mechanism for certain synth attributes.
Specifically, suppose that a large percentage of a particular user's synths (and let's say that they have quite a few) were simply shot with the intention to display the photos in the context of their pointcloud. It's fine for the Photosynth team to decide that the default should be photos only, on every synth where a user has not specified another preference (i.e. pointcloud only), however for our theoretical user, this means that switching a specific selection of a long list of synths back to photos + points (again - if that were still an option) means a long series of clicks to:
1) navigate to the correct page of their synth list
2) load the view page for a single synth
3) scroll down to click the 'Edit' button
4) load the edit page for the synth
5) click the 'Advanced' tab
6) select the desired viewing mode
8) exit the editor
9) navigate back to the correct page in their synth list to perform the same set of steps on the next synth.
Now, that's quite a laborious task and very possible to forget exactly which synth you were just editing, when you have quite a few.
It would be great if, in the future, we could get a way to mass edit a few key attributes of our synths all in one single long list. Good candidates to be mass editable are as follows:
By 'mass editable', I simply mean, give me a nice long text list with the title and perhaps a small thumb (1cm square) for each synth where I have radio buttons for the choices within each category for the entire list of my synths.
To be clear, each synth's settings should be individually editable in this list, but if there is a category in which I want them to be the same (all synths set to Filename Order, for example) then a tool to tick all the radio buttons in one column to be set identically would be a great time saver.
Even without the ability to check all the boxes in a given column at once, having the settings for all the synths there on one page would allow me to see aberrations or oversights in my settings and quickly set them right in a minimum number of clicks and loading.
I would also appreciate a way for the end user to quickly see which of his synths is not yet geo-tagged and|or geo-aligned. At present, scrolling through the synth tab on my profile feels fatiguing, perhaps because I can only see links to five pages at a time. This removes all sense of how many more pages I still need to look at and makes the process of visually scanning each page feel endless.
A single simple list where I can sort by geo-tagged and geo-aligned would be incredibly helpful to then jump into the editor on the Geotag tab and fill in the missing data.
If we're ever able to change the license on our synths after they're constructed, that would also be a good candidate for this sort of mass editing.
Well... after that rambling sidetrack... a question regarding the update:
>> When will panoramas be viewable on Bing Maps? I had rather assumed that they would already be operational, but this turns out not to be true.
Since regular synths don't use Bing Maps as a proper backdrop yet, what, exactly, are we waiting on for panos? Will you be trying to match them to Streetside imagery as you have with the CC geotagged Flickr photos?
Thanks for all the editing comments, Nathanael. These are definitely things we've considered and as of yet, we just haven't been focused as much on synth editing. We still have a lot of work to do just to make the navigation experience better.
To answer your question about initial visibility - yes, we made a change to show just photos. Since we stretched the viewer to full width (a great change IMHO) we needed to turn off points for performance. Silverlight just doesn't handle the large # of points well enough.
As far as panos on the map - right now we're a bit out of synch with the Bing maps schedule, and we'll get this in next time the map site is updated.
I predict that the multiifunctionality of Photosynth/Seadragon will be a major challenge in the development of this softwware. For example, Nathanael, perhaps the most active member of our community, has pursued a number of interesting projects over the last few months that I have noticed dealt with 3D Point Cloud Creation *almost exclusively*. It must be frustrating to have the ability to view these synths in their desired form to be outside our control.
Personally, my work has tended towards pictoral representations mapped onto 3D Point Clouds, and I remain neutral about whether the point cloud is visible in my synths.. Maybe I have always run too slow of a computer to enjoy the point cloud anyways; they appear and disappear so easily with every change of reference.
On the bigger issue, right now, we're just discovering the uses for this technology. I sense that we're just scratchin the surface. In other words, the problems of multi-use will continue. Gl!
Although I am yet to really work in the new version of our viewer for editing, I stand by my early comments that the viewing experience has been much improved.
Two things strike me particularly:
First, clairity seems improved. I felt that my images in my synths looked full-res for the first time and that they held many more details. This adds to the realism, which is great, because I am using Photosynth as a virtual reality tool.
Second, motion within synths feels more natural. I will need to explore this sensation more by viewing more synths, but I liked viewing synths more after the update.
I noticed, I think, that the Direct3D option is gone. Is this true? Is it desirable?
Thanks for your work overall. Good discussion of an interesting issue, Nathanael.
Thanks for taking the time to reply, Jonathan. It's always good to hear some of the reasons behind a decision.
I, too, am a full supporter of the viewer being full browser width. As much as I'm aware of Silverlight's limited performance with particles, I hadn't connected the dots between a larger viewer and the need to start in photos only mode.
I feel like there's a case for photos + points initial visibility for embedded synths, but on the other hand I admit that there are very few sites that I frequent which do not strip iframes out of entries posted there, so perhaps it's not a very strong case for the time being.
The Direct3D viewer is still available for synths... not for the panoramas, understandably.
You can navigate to the D3D viewer via the link under the description and tags or simply edit any synth's URL, replacing "view.aspx" for "d3d/photosynth.aspx".
As for viewing synths with photos + pointclouds, it's still as simple as ever to press the [P] key to rotate to the desired viewing mode, but in the synth editor, there's no way to make photos + pointclouds the default when people load the synth... that's all. It's relatively simple to ask your users to perform the necessary steps to navigate to photos + points in the synth description, but it's up in the air as to how many actually will, which is a bit displeasing.
The pointcloud certainly interests me, insofar as it is the only really objective way to measure how correctly the photos have been positioned. The modeling side is the other side of the pointcloud coin but there's still a long road there.
I love these url-based tricks to help define what people see when I send them links. The view to embed trick is very cool. Thanks for the additional one, David! I'll send some synths with that link form to my friend who has a nice gaming rig.
As soon as my broadband finally joins me at my new flat I will try synthing it, and here lies my question. I am often in remote parts of the world where getting web access is not an option of any sort. I would love to be able to crack on with this as a stand alone application. Maybe you can and I have missed it!
Other than that its a stunning appliction.
No doubt you will be rolling out images laid over point clouds one day and then it will just be spiffo biffo!!
If you have access to obscene amounts of money which you're looking to get rid of, look up GeoSynth from Bing Maps subsidiary Vexcel.
Other than that, the only other offline photogrammetry product like Photosynth that I am aware of is the original Bundler from the original Photo Tourism research. I'm still not sure what one is to do for viewing the output, but the bundle adjuster is available for download for Linux or use within Cygwin here:
You might enjoy Binary Millenium's accounts of getting Bundler up and running.
Speaking of options for startup, could we also have a setting that specifies whether the synth is initially maximized? When I send links to people I always need to tell them to click the little maximize button, it's a pain. I made a similar request to the SeaDragon team, and they very nicely provided a trick: you just add "#full" at the end of their URL, here's an example:
Something like this for synths would be handy.
Nice suggestion, Charlie!
A question: How important is it to you that the people you link to your synth be able to see the rest of the page other than the synth (i.e. a link to your profile, comments, creation date, % synthy, # of photos, related synths, etc.)?
If it isn't important to you and you only care about the people seeing the synth, you can swap out 'view.aspx' for 'embed.aspx' in the URL of any synth and their entire browser window will be treated like the part of a page that a synth is normally embedded into. If they really want to see the comments on the synth, they could click the Photosynth logo in the upper left corner and select 'More about this synth' - which is roughly as easy to explain as explaining to click the restore icon in the lower left. Is this a good enough solution for now?