“Dreamlike” 3D in new Photosynth


microsoft photosynth

It’s been quite a few years since I was first wowed by Microsoft’s demonstration of Photosynth — and the company keeps improving its tool for making 3D experiences directly from photos.

The Photosynth team posted “a major update” on Tuesday, and says its new synthesized locations and flyovers “are as smooth as a Steadicam video, but they’re ultra-resolution and completely interactive.”

For example, a high-altitude “flight” to Mount Everest takes one minute to play, and “every frame contains a whopping 60 megapixels,” the developers say. It was shot from a high-altitude helicopter with an array of full-frame cameras. “You can stop anywhere and zoom in on every last pixel.”

If you can’t fly a chopper, you can walk around a big rock on the beach taking still shots — and Photosynth will create a photorealistic 3D model from them, as also demonstrated on the site. How are they made? “40 photos were uploaded to our servers on Microsoft Azure,” the developers note. “The Photosynth pipeline analyzed the photos for overlap, and created a point cloud of the stable features. Each photo was then fitted to this point cloud, and a location was estimated for the camera in every photo. Finally, a smooth path through or near each of these locations was calculated, and the result was stored on photosynth.net for viewing. You view the synth using WebGL, which is supported by Internet Explorer 11 and all the other leading browsers.”

The first preview results are here.

Photosynth lets you “capture amazing places and objects, share them with friends, and embed them in blogs and websites,” the team adds.


Microsoft enlivens tiles on Windows Phone 8

With new models from Nokia, Samsung and HTC, Microsoft debuted its latest smartphone operating system, promoting its “Live Tiles” interface as “the heart and soul of Windows Phone.”

On Windows Phone 8, “people can arrange the iconic Start screen however they want by pinning their favorite people, apps, music, games, photos and more,” the company says. “Three sizes of Live Tiles and 20 bright color choices including cobalt, crimson and lime mean you can personalize your Start screen to be unmistakably yours.” Also, the Live Apps deliver real-time information to the Start or Lock screens, showing deals of the day, flight information, or news headlines.

Windows Phone 8 can handle payments via near-field communications, and its Wallet stores debit, credit, loyalty and membership card information.

New photo features in the phones include:

The Nokia Lumia 920 “offers state-of-the-art photography that fits in your pocket,” Microsoft says, “and it is the world’s only smartphone to include Optical Image Stabilization.”

The Windows Phone 8X by HTC “also breaks new ground in optics with 1080p video recording, f2.0 aperture and a dedicated HTC ImageChip on the main 8-megapixel camera,” Microsoft says, “and an ultra wide-angle lens on the front camera that lets you fit up to four people in the frame for a premium Skype experience.” It’s $200 with a two-year Verizon contract.

More information is here.


Photobucket, ArcSoft imaging apps arrive on Windows 8

Designed to be the premiere Windows 8 device, Microsoft’s Surface tablet is now available, the operating system is out worldwide, and with it come new imaging apps.

Photobucket says its app is “specifically for the touch-driven new Windows user interface.” The app provides “fast and intuitive category browsing and full search of the more than 10 billion photos and videos” it hosts, as well as photo and video management and sharing capabilities.

Imaging software developer ArcSoft says it is bringing three applications to Windows 8:

• Perfect365 applies either natural-looking touch-up or a complete makeover to a photo before emailing or sharing;

• Whip turns favorite photos “into a vibrant album;”

• ShowBiz creates videos  in a few steps with themes and transitions.

These and other Window 8 apps are here.


Microsoft’s new Surface tablet has two HD cameras

Eschewing the post-PC nomenclature of the iPad and its ilk, Microsoft calls its upcoming Surface tablets, “PCs built to be the ultimate stage for Windows.”

The Surface devices are “designed to seamlessly transition between consumption and creation, without compromise,” the company adds.

They also mark a break from Microsoft’s traditional business of licensing its operating system to other hardware makers: the PCs are “conceived, designed and engineered entirely by Microsoft employees,” it says, “building on the company’s 30-year history manufacturing hardware.”

The 10.6-inch screen has a 16:9 aspect ratio, the standard for HD — to go with the dual HD video cameras the tablet will tout.

The magnesium-based “VaporMg” case uses a “combination of material selection and process to mold metal and deposit particles that creates a finish akin to a luxury watch.” The case has an integrated “kickstand,” a flip out support to hold the tablet up hands-free.

Sounds like a nice model — would that there were only one. But while Apple first found success marketing just one iPad [albeit with different storage capacities and connectivity] Microsoft is immediately risking market confusion with two Surface designs that differ by processor, operating system version, and size:

The Windows RT model runs on an ARM processor, weighs 676 grams, and measures 9.3 mm thick.

The Windows 8 Pro unit runs on an Intel Core CPU, weighs 903 grams, and is 13.5 mm thick.

Also, while Apple announces products with pricing and shipping info also publicized, Microsoft was mum on those key factors — as well as most actual hardware specifications, such as details on those two cameras.

That said, even as iPad-totin’ Apple customers, we have to admit the Surface looks like it could be a sleek, useful device — especially with the Metro user interface, and the detachable cover that doubles as a tactile full keyboard.

More information is here.


Microsoft Surface now shipping from Samsung

Microsoft says its Surface — the table-sized touchscreen used in some high-end establishments — is now used to “give potential customers virtual tours of plane interiors, help them plan flights, provide them with the ability to create immersive photo books, and entice bank customers into brick and mortar branches.”

Samsung ships a smaller Surface.

A retail-friendly version of Surface is now available for pre-order in 23 countries. “Retailers, healthcare providers and others looking for new ways to get hands-on with their customers will soon have a new tool – the Samsung SUR40,” the company says.

“Touch is becoming ubiquitous, people are looking for more immersive relationships with screens,” Microsoft says. “The new Surface takes technology that’s always existed in the backs of stores and brings it front and center. So now customers and retailers can interact together, a doctor and a patient can have a more immersive consulting experience, and a banker and a customer can sit together and work on a simulation where in past the banker would be the only one in control.”

The new Surface device has “a massive multi-touch screen, the ability to recognize fingers, blobs, and objects – as well as PixelSense, a new technology that lets LCD panels “see” without the use of actual cameras.” The screen is only four inches thick.

PixelSense allows a display to recognize fingers, hands, and objects placed on the screen, enabling vision-based interaction without the use of cameras, Microsoft says. “The individual pixels in the display ‘see’ what’s touching the screen and that information is immediately processed and interpreted.”

More information on PixelSense is here.