Microsoft Photosynth, the company's three-dimensional photo reconstruction software, went public Aug. 20, letting users render in 3-D photos from Yahoo's Flickr, Facebook or Google Picasso.
Microsoft Photosynth works by linking photos to other photos on the Web where they overlap. It lets users combine an array of photos of a single location into a navigable, 3-D image called a "synth."
Microsoft first previewed Photosynth at its 2006 financial analyst meeting, several months after it acquired Seattle-based Seadragon Software, which developed technology to display large images on computers and handheld devices. Microsoft later previewed a more in-depth look at last year's TED conference.
Microsoft Photosynth came out of Microsoft's Live Labs, which nurtured it following the Seadragon Software acquisition.
Microsoft Photosynth is still just a consumer product, but Alex Daley, Microsoft's group product manager for Microsoft Live Labs, tells InformationWeek there are enterprise applications down the road.
""If you think about the commerce scenarios, you have this ability to provide a generalized overview of that that you might not have been able to before," Daley says. "Take, for example, the possibility of a real estate site with navigable virtual tours of houses. Synths can be made to allow users to navigate around corners and objects as well as view an image in a 360-degree round.""
My friend and co-worker Joe Wilcox, who writes the blog, Microsoft Watch, offers some examples of where and when we might see commercial uses of Photosynth, such as in real estate, education and, well, porn. But Joe "simply can't think of many good reasons" to use Synth.
Another Microsoft blogger I am lucky enough to call friend, Mary-Jo Foley, explains in her All About Microsoft blog where Photosynth fits in with Microsoft's larger efforts regarding photo sharing and collaboration.
Synths require photographers to shoot digital photos in a new way, with overlapping in mind, so the Photosynth Web site includes a photography guide and video demonstration.