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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times technology reporter Matt Day.

August 20, 2008 at 9:01 PM

Microsoft releases version of Photosynth you can use

“You hope a computer could do something that’s sort of magic and it so rarely ever happens. Photosynth is one of the cases where when you see this for the first time, and even after you’ve seen 100 synths, it’s still magic.”

That was David Gedye, group manager of Microsoft’s Photosynth, talking about his team’s enthusiasm as they prepared to launch a version of the software that consumers could use. I couldn’t find a place for it in my story in Thursday’s paper, but, even though it’s a bit hyperbolic, I wanted to post it here, because, frankly, I agree.

Here’s a “synth” National Geographic did on Stonehenge. You’ll need to download the Photosynth software (8 megabytes) and be running Windows Vista or XP to view it.

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And here’s an excerpt from my story in Thursday’s paper on Photosynth:

Two years ago, Microsoft wowed audiences with technology to explore the world through digital photos.

The company demonstrated Photosynth, software that arranges photo sets in their real-world, 3-D context and allows people to navigate smoothly around the canals of Venice, for example, or zoom in to read the serial numbers on the Space Shuttle’s heat shields.

Now anyone can make a “synth,” documenting anything from a favorite sculpture to a real estate listing to a city skyline in a new way. Microsoft released the free online service Wednesday night.

“We talk about the Internet bringing things to you, but the current Internet is so limited,” said David Gedye, Photosynth group manager. “It’s so slow, it’s so click-based. It’s a tiny little keyhole that you’re looking at the world through, and this is like a picture window.”

Since Microsoft’s small Live Labs team began showing off Photosynth in 2006, the top request has been for a version that individuals could use.

It starts at, where people can open an account (with a Windows Live ID) and begin creating “synths,” which require only an off-the-shelf digital camera and an 8 megabyte software download.

There are also already dozens of “synths” to view on the site, including several from National Geographic, which assigned photographers to document wonders of the world such as Stonehenge, using Photosynth.

“If we’re successful with this, we’ve actually invented a new media type that’s halfway between photos, computer games and video,” Gedye said, citing Photosynth’s rich detail, user-controlled navigation and a cinematic qualities.

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