If you like to play with your photos and dream about new ways to use them, Microsoft Live Labs finally released Photosynth yesterday. Photosynth uses 2D photos to create a 3D environment, and a lot of people have been anxiously waiting for its release since it was introduced at the Web 2.0 Summit in 2006.
It's still in its very early stages and the servers are getting overloaded with all the traffic (they even had to take it down for a few hours, but it's back up now) so it's slow and clunky, but essentially you can take a series of photos of an object or environment, upload them to the Photosynth server and Photosynth will create a 3D environment eerily reminiscent of old computer adventure games. Very old games. A lot of the stuff that is being uploaded is from people just trying out the technology for the first time so if you're smart you'll skip over those synths. I recommend taking a look at the ones done by National Geographic (I found them under Explore Synths > Popular). Here's one of the Sphinx and Pyramids:
It's still not as quite cool as I was hoping it would be. I guess I was hoping that it would be seamless, but I have to remember that this is new technology and this is just the first release. Hopefully as people test it out, gain a better understanding of how it works and how to take photos to create synths, and also provide feedback to Microsoft, it will grow into how we envisioned it when it was first introduced. This has the potential to be very cool, it's just not there yet.
There is a pdf and a video tutorial on the site to teach you how to create your own synth. As of right now all synths must be uploaded to the site and made public. If you try creating your own synth(s), post a link here so we can check it out. But be warned that Microsoft is advising that synth creation is taking 40 minutes or longer right now due to the load on their servers.
When you think about the future potential, the possibilities are mind boggling. If I remember correctly, one of the initial ideas for Photosynth was that it would actively crawl the web for images and work on creating an entire 3D world from the photos posted on the web by everyone. Like a virtual world, only the real world. First Google Street View, next it's a Photosynth World. If ideas like that fascinate you (yup, I'm a sci-fi geek, too), take a look at this thought provoking video from TED* of Kevin Kelly talking about the next 5,000 days of the web:
*If you're not yet familiar with TED it stands for Technology, Education and Design, and their site features "Inspired talks by the world's greatest thinkers and doers". Some very cool and fascinating stuff here and well worth checking out.