Friday, September 18, 2009

Amazing 3-D Virtual Rome Generated by 150,000 Flickr Photos

Using nearly half a million Flickr photos of Rome, Venice, and the Croatian coastal city of Dubrovnik, a team of computer scientists at the University of Washington's Graphics and Imaging Laboratory assembled digital models of the three cities in 3-D.

Their work builds on the algorithms used in Microsoft's Photosynth, which were invented at the same lab, but it's like Photosynth on steroids. Each video includes clusters of small diamond shapes, which represent each photographer and his or her vantage point.

The team built a new algorithm that proceeds in two steps -- first, by matching the photos by what they had in common, puzzle-style, and then by determining the scene and each photographer's pose. They also designed new software that can more quickly solve the type of large math problems that exist in 3-D reconstruction.

It took 500 computer processors 13 hours to match 150,000 photos for Rome's landmarks, and eight more hours to construct a 3-D image of them. Venice involved 250,000 images, which took 27 hours to match and 38 hours to reconstruct. By contrast, using the algorithms on which Photosynth is based, it would have taken 500 processors at least a year to match 250,000 photos. That is ridiculous.

[Link: PopularScience]

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