Photosynth, which was initially released as a Microsoft Live Labs Technology Preview, is being released as a new free service, to become part of MSN. The new product, available at www.photosynth.net, combines a 20gb online storage and presentation piece, an add-in to Internet Explorer or FireFox, and a downloadable 8mb installation to create one of the first true “Software + Services” offerings coming out of Ray Ozzie’s Microsoft Live Labs.
We’re going to stick with the announcement, here, and strongly encourage you to sign up and play with PhotoSynth. It is available immediately worldwide, for free, but in English only at this time. There are some computer restrictions:
A Web browser (Windows Internet Explorer 7 is recommended; Internet Explorer 6 and Firefox 2 and 3 also are supported, but not all features have been tested in all browsers); a small, 7MB plug-in available free at http://www.Photosynth.net; a broadband connection; and the Windows XP SP2 or Windows Vista operating system.
Our ace reporter Sunshine is busy playing with Photosynth, and she’ll have a much more in depth review of it soon, but you really need to head to the website, download the app (I installed it in in something less than a minute), and check out the SeaDragon seamless zoom, the PhotoSynth viewer, and the ease with which this whole experience comes together.
Currently stocked with some preview “synths” from the likes of National Geographic and some Microsoft employees, users will be able to log in with a Windows Live ID, download the app, and begin immediately to create, upload and share “synths” of their own. I talked today to Alex Daley, General Product Manager of Live Labs, about the process. “In about the time it takes to upload the photos”, the client app will create relationships between the photos, and upload them to your catalog on Photosynth.net. If you have been following along, you may remember Robert Scoble and others showing off early versions of PhotoSynth, and commenting on how it at that time took about a day and a half to create a “synth”. With this new version, creating a synth may take just a few minutes.
The PhotoSynth site recommends using between 20 and 300 pictures (which can be from any camera at any resolution, from camera phone to DSLR, in any combination), but really there is no limit on the number of photos except for the processing power of your local client computer, on which all the relationship processing is done, and the 20gb limit of a Live ID account.
Daley also explained the ease at which one could get the best experience from PhotoSynth: for example the site will know which photos you have already uploaded, so if you create a new similar synth, or revamp an old one, even from a different computer, PhotoSynth will only upload the photos it needs. PhotoSynth will also grade your “synthiness”, that is give you a score on how many of your photos are related by the calculations. You could then, for example, create a synth, see that you had some holes, go back and take some more photos, and create a new version. The best way to do this, Daley said, is to keep a folder containing your synth files, as you won’t actually edit a synth, but create a new one.
The site also mentions what Daley referred to as “crowd-sourcing”, that is taking photos from a number of users and combining them into a “synth”. Currently that can only be accomplished by gathering photos together manually and creating a synth on a single account, but Daley said that long term, more “crowd-sourching” options were definitely being considered.
With this release, PhotoSynth moves out of Microsoft Live Labs and joins MSN as part of the Virtual Earth team:
Photosynth will begin to become a key part of the experience for MSN’s 550 million monthly visitors worldwide. Synths will be prominently featured on MSN.com. To create a more absorbing experience for its visitors, MSN will use synths of popular destinations and notable events in many of the places where static images are used on the site today.
We’ll have a lot more on this new fun technology soon, but for now, head right over to www.photosynth.net, and make your own synth now!