Hello. I’m Matt Uyttendaele. I’m part of the team that developed HD View. Over the past years I’ve been inspired by the very large images that have been appearing on the web. My first exposure to a Gigapixel image was the one created by Max Lyons. Shortly after that I went to a great talk by Graham Flint of the GigaPxl Project. (See his slides here.) More recently the team at xRez has been creating some beautiful content, and the Gigapan group is poised to unleash a low cost device that perhaps will make Gigapixel photographers out of all of us. Since long before the Gigapixel barrier was broken, panoramic photographers have been generating very large images. Some of my favorites are Jook Leung, Ian James Wood, and Bradford Bohonus.
Seeing all this great work really made me want to create some Gigapixel images. Last year, Michael Cohen and I bought a PixOrb, headed out to a roof top in Seattle, shot 800 jpegs with the camera in aperture-priority and set out to stitch them. The goal was to develop a computer program to stitch them all with no manual steps. Michael and I work in the Interactive Visual Media Group of Microsoft Research so we were able to use a lot of the great algorithms developed by our group. The result is the Seattle Downtown scene on the HD View Gigapixel page. Technically, there are flaws with our first attempt: the camera ran out of power, thus the black bars; the first implementation of the automatic stitcher mis-aligned some things; I’m sure you’ll find others. However, what struck us was just how much fun it was to explore the image. We realized that this wasn’t really just one image, it was thousands of scenes at different scales — from people crossing the street, to airplanes flying overhead, to an overview of Seattle on a sunny morning. However, how to explore it? Thus HD View was born.
The goal of the project was to provide interactive access to the 1000s of scenes that comprise these big images. You should be able to zoom out and get a panoramic view, zoom in and get the immersive QTVR style experience, and you should be able to do this over an Internet connection. We started out by modifying a Terra-Server viewer written by Jonathan Fay, then Howard Good took over, and we had a huge amount of input from Johannes Kopf who was with us through Microsoft’s summer internship program. This resulted in an application that was fairly usable compared to some research prototypes. So, we decided to release it.
Note that HD View is not a product, it is a prototype application that we are letting out of the lab. You should treat it as a software application that is being beta tested. What HD View is – is a lot of fun. It leverages the graphics processor present in most PCs today to give an interactive experience, even at full-screen. It uses multiresolution tiled images (much like terraserver and maps.live.com), so that only the current view of the overall image is fetched over the web. And it smoothly transitions from panoramic overview to immersive panning mode.
In our next blog entry we’ll talk about creating your own content. In the meantime check out the "create your own" page.