Microsoft have finally released the first public version of Photosynth, that meshes many photos of the same place together into a 3D Landscape. I have played with Photosynth in the past and have talked about it on this blog. It’s a hugely impressive technology and I can’t wait to use it in earnest. Sadly it’s only available on Windows at the moment, and sadly it wont even work on Windows running on VMWare! Hopefully they’ll launch cross platform versions of the software soon …
Microsoft researcher Hrvoje Benko demonstrating the latest iteration of Microsoft’s Surface technology, called Sphere. It looks really cool, and when he shows the panoramic photos, it has a crystal ball quality that really appeals to me. The idea of using it as an interface onto Google Maps is also really compelling or certainly springs to mind when he shows the sphere rendering as a globe. Benko also demonstrates some of their ideas around what he feels are the unique advantages to a spherical display. For example multiple users can each get their own scrap of surface, which enables a kind of limited viewing privacy.
At first glance it looks awesome and you can even play Pong on it!
This is a jaw dropping talk that shows off Microsoft’s WorldWide Telescope – a technology that combines feeds from satellites and telescopes all over the world and the heavens, and weaves them together holistically to build a comprehensive view of our universe.
Microsoft announced that it intends to give students some of its most advanced development tools – for free! Here’s some official coverage over at MSDN. So how do we interpret such a move? Is it an act of desperation or one of sheer brilliance? I personally think its a pretty astute move.
By giving away Visual Studio Professional, along with a slew of other development tool’s they’re trying to gain traction with Student’s – and shape their thinking. As a student I couldn’t afford to buy the Microsoft development tools, so always opted for Open Source tool’s and technologies and working with those tools, and indeed contributing to them, which shaped my thinking and the path that I eventually took. It’s unclear how receptive Student’s will be to this – but make no mistake this about winning hearts and minds, and if you can win them at an early age then your onto a winner – that’s the gamble.
I personally think it’ll be nice to see some more competition … whilst I love Open Source I often think that many OS projects, particularly dev tools, tend to rest on the laurels or assume that since the competition is so expensive it doesn’t necessarily matter if the UI isn’t as good as it should be, or it doesn’t have as many features as a commercial equivalent – User’s will learn to accept any shortcomings. Now as a developer I’ve used many IDE’s and many many tool’s and even I have to admit that Microsoft’s tools are wonderful, in fact it’s interesting to think of which way I would have gone eleven or twelve years ago if MS had provided a similar incentive for us?
I have to confess the cynic me does wonder if this is simply a case of closing the gate after the horse has bolted?
Microsoft has finally released out of beta it’s suite of Windows Live Services, offering users half a dozen downloads and web apps.Among the offerings are IMAP-enabled Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Writer (one of my favourite tools!) for offline editing and uploading blogs, A Picture Gallery application and a parental controls application for web browsing.
This offering by Microsoft does echo Google’s Google Pack, which was also an online/offline software bundle. The difference between the two is that Google’s offering includes products from other vendors whilst Microsoft’s offering does attempt to tie you more to Microsoft’s own Platform.
I’m not complaining though I like variety …
The images search on www.live.com recently released a new feature that makes it easier to search for specific kinds of images. You can now search for portraits, faces and black and white images by adding some simple filters to queries.
For example if I wanted to search for specific kinds of images of my friend Alan I would use the following queries:
The search also incorporates the new Related People feature which is also quite interesting … for example try this image search:
I’m not sure what heuristic it uses to relate people together but I find it quite an interesting discovery tool. Try it out for yourselves.
If you haven’t tried it yet check out Microsoft’s experimental new search front end Tafiti – http://www.tafiti.com.
It’s based on Microsoft’s new SilverLight technology, their competitor to Flash. It uses a cool desktop metaphor where you can spin through different kinds of results, drag and drop them into piles which you can label and share with your friends.
Although it might seem gimmicky and not particularly useful at first glance, it is actually quite innovative and and a lot of fun to use. It’s a great showcase for SilverLight but it’s interesting to contrast how Apple are doing a lot of work in bringing metaphors such as stacks to the desktop UI, and Microsoft seem to be focussing on Search and the Web.
Try it out for yourselves! I think it’s awesome.
I finally updated my install of Windows LiveWriter. It’s still a very simple tool to use and I find it very useful for offline editing of blog posts. The new version is noticeably faster to upload than the previous version, the UI looks nicer too, and I can easily switch between the various blogs I post on. The new add a plugin feature is also quite cool.
The BBC is performing a technical trial of the PhotoSynth technology as part of it’s How We Made Britain television series. You can find out more about the trial here, and you can view the synths at http://labs.live.com/photosynth/bbc/ , for a list of all the collections related to the TV series click here – This list contains Ely Cathedral, Burghley House, Royal Crescent in Bath, Blackpool Ballroom, Scottish Parliament Building and Trafalgar Square
The level of detail in all these Synth’s is amazing and the technology provides a wonderfully intuitive way of exploring these buildings and places. PhotoSynth continues to impress and I can’t wait to find out when MS intend to launch desktop versions of the tool that we can use at home with our own library of photo’s.
I also found this Synth of Gyeongbok Palace in Korea, it’s stunning!
There’s some really interesting stuff coming out of Microsoft Research at the moment. I’ve already talked about Photosynth on this blog which is an incredible technology. Microsoft have also just released into beta a new high definition panoramic viewer that can handle pictures as large as several gigapixels. Here’s a video explaining how this technology works, much like PhotoSynth I suspect it’s possibly also based on Seadragon … the results are stunning:
You can try out HDView for yourselves, here – You do have to download the plugin and it only works on XP/Vista using Internet Explorer