About The Photosynth Technical Preview

With Photosynth, you can capture the places you love in amazing resolution and full 3D. The new Photosynth technology previewed here is a dramatic step forward in smoothness and simplicity. Experience it yourself in our featured synths.

This technical preview highlights the third generation of our technology. It's what we now recommend for anyone with a D-SLR or a point-and-shoot camera. The first two generations of Photosynth technology, original synths and stitched panoramas, are still available on our main site.

Synth Types

The new Photosynth technology supports four basic experiences: spin, panorama, walk, and wall.

Photosynth : spin

Spin around an object as small as a seashell or as large as a mountain.

Photosynth : panorama

Put yourself in the center of a space and look in every direction.

Photosynth : walk

Follow a path through the woods or fly toward a destination.

Photosynth : wall

Slide across a scene, checking out every last detail.

How Does It Work?

When you upload a set of photos to our cloud service, our technology starts by looking for points (called "features") in successive photos that appear to be the same object.

If it finds many features that reoccur in your set of photos, it passes this information on to the second step: bundle adjustment. Bundle adjustment, a standard technique in photogrammetry, determines where in 3D space each feature is, exactly where each photo was taken from, and how the camera was oriented for each photo.

Third, the technology uses the feature points in each photo to generate 3D shapes. It does so on a per-photo basis rather than trying to generate a global 3D model for the scene. The 3D model generated by Photosynth is coarse—you can see it if you type "c" (for camera) in the viewer and then use your mouse wheel to zoom out.

Next, the technology calculates a smooth path (think of it as a Steadicam) through—or very close to—the camera locations for each photo. Using this path, Photosynth presents the experience of moving through a synth as a gliding motion even if the actual photos were shot at different heights or slightly off-angle. You can see the path if you type "m" (for map) in the viewer. Finally, Photosynth slices and dices the images into multi-resolution pyramids for efficient access.

Try Making One Yourself

During this technical preview, you can view, like, and share synths created by other Photosynth users. You'll need to sign up, though, for special access to create these new types of synths.

We'll approve access on a first come, first served basis. (It may take a few days for us to get to your request as we tune our servers to handle the incoming upload traffic.) While you wait for approval, check out our Expert Shooting Guide full of professional tips and tricks for shooting these new types of synths.

When we approve you, you'll get an email notification with a link to start creating synths. (Make sure you mark ps-norep@email.microsoft.com as a safe sender on your email client to prevent emails from the Photosynth Team from going to the junk folder.)

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The new Photosynth technology is based closely on the Spin project from the Interactive Visual Media (IVM) group of Microsoft Research. We have a deep collaboration with the IVM team. They have partnered with us on every generation of Photosynth, bringing great ideas and solid, high performance code to the product. Microsoft has also licensed a number of software components used in this product. Here are details about them.