Microsoft has been busy developing two different web browser photo-viewing plugins by the names of HD View and Photosynth. The current builds of both these projects are compatible with Internet Explorer and Firefox. Both of these projects, though are currently in the testing stage with HD View in Beta 2 and Photosynth in a pre-Beta technical preview
HD View is, as the name suggests, software that allows the viewing of high definition photos in a web browser. Since modern digital cameras produce images too large for most computer screens—for example, my digital camera has 6.3 megapixels and my 1280×800 laptop screen has 1,024,000 pixels or just over 1 megapixel—viewing such images in browsers is difficult.
HD View allows even very large images to be viewable in a web browser by allowing users to zoom in and out of a large photo and breaking the image down into more manageable pieces. This allows even photos with gigapixel counts to be perusable by Web surfers. For an example of that, one of the panoramas featured on the HD View site is this one of the Seattle skyline from nearby Kerry Park:
The panorama contained a total of 1.4 gigapixels, much more than any conventional camera that even a professional photojournalist would capture. For an idea of the scale, here is a screen capture of the furthest zoom in of part of the Space Needle:
As you can see, the detail of the panorama is utterly amazing. The site has links to even more detailed panoramas, including a 13 gigapixel panorama of Harlem.
Photosynth adds a different dimension to digital images—that is, a third dimension. Photosynth is software that takes compilations of photos and assembles a 3-D map of the place where the photos were taken. This map is shown through little particles.
One can then switch from picture to picture either by clicking on photos at the bottom, selecting the photos at the angle desired by clicking within the map area or by using keyboard shortcuts.
Photosynth also has one of the key features of HD View built in in teh form of zooming. Besides hopping to pictures closer to the object of interest, one can also use the mouse scroll wheel to zoom in on a specific feature.
Currently, Photosynth is touting a collection of images released, in conjunction with NASA, of the Space Shuttle Endeavour. Below is a picture of Endeavour on the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Microsoft also has collections from Britain, Rome, Venice, an art studio among a few others. As of now, you cannot add your own photos to be compiled into a photosynth, but it appears that such a feature may be down the road.
Photosynth has even greater promise than HD View, though it can only work on Windows, as it uses Direct X to render. I hope to see more of these as time progresses. They make for great viewing