We are super-excited to announce a new release of Microsoft ICE. A lot of hard work went into this update of ICE, and it has some great new features, which I’ll talk about shortly. But, the most exciting thing — the thing that’s probably going to make you stop reading and hit this download link — is that ICE now has a “Publish to Photosynth” button. This lets you share your full-resolution ICE panoramas on the web.
Photosynth is Microsoft’s unique technology for reconstructing 3D spaces from a collection of photos. These 3D reconstructions (known as synths) will continue to be an integral part of the Photosynth experience. As of today, panoramas will also become integral to Photosynth. Check out the Photosynth team blog for details on this new feature.
For ICE users, what this means is that you can now share your full-resolution panoramic photos on the web. The Photosynth web site has been enhanced to let users interact with massive, fully immersive panoramas. Photosynth uses intelligent streaming technology that allows for smooth pan and zoom of even the largest images. This is a huge step forward compared to how most ICE users have been sharing their panoramic creations on the web. The best way to understand this is to check out a few examples uploaded from ICE this morning.
Often the inspiration for capturing a panorama is the photographer’s desire to document a special place on Earth — be it the view from your office, a sunrise over Mt. Rainier, or your climbing gym. Photosynth has some great features (see screenshot to the right) to help you share your unique knowledge of such places. You can “Geotag” where your panorama was taken, and what direction you were looking. You can add “General” tags and a text description to your photos. Under “Highlights”, you can annotate all the details, big and small, within your images — for example, see the highlights on this 4-gigapixel panorama of Yosemite Valley. ICE panoramas with geotags will be visible on Bing Maps alongside traditional synths. The Photosynth team is working with Bing Maps to make this happen soon.
At Microsoft Research we’ve been working on creating super high resolution images for a few years now. Some of this technology was in the first version of ICE, but it wasn’t really possible to create multi-gigapixel images with ICE — until now! We’ve added a new type of project in ICE called a structured panorama. This is accessed via the “File: New Structured Panorama” menu, which allows you to give ICE some hints about the order of your input images. The ICE output size is now effectively unlimited – for example see this 10gigapixel result. It is an ideal way to stitch images captured by robotic capture devices that are now available to consumers, like the Gigapan unit. It’s been a kick for us to go back and use ICE on the early imagery that we captured when we were inventing this technology. What took weeks of labor to process back then is now automatically handled by ICE — from import, through seamless composition, to upload to the web. Those weeks of effort are now down to hours, and in some cases minutes if you have a fast multi-core computer.
Many of the processing-intensive tasks* within ICE have been enhanced to effectively use multi-core PCs. Below is a screenshot of a computer’s CPU Usage while ICE is processing a Photosynth upload. This particular computer has 8 cores, represented by the 8 graphs. Ideally, what we want to see here is these graphs pegged at the top. This means all the CPUs are working together to finish a job much faster. While 8-core machines are not yet common, most new consumer PCs do have 4 cores. If you’ve bought a new PC recently, you should now see ICE work up to 4X faster!
And More …
That’s all of the new stuff we’ll mention for now. Actually, one more cool thing is that ICE can now process 16-bit images. And ICE is still free, as is Photosynth storage.
To get more details and to download, visit the ICE web page.
The ICE Team – Matt Uyttendaele, Eric Stollnitz, Howard Good