(Source: NYTimes.com) Computer science researchers at the University of Washington and Cornell University are deploying a system that will blend teamwork and collaboration with powerful graphics algorithms to create three-dimensional renderings of buildings, neighborhoods and potentially even entire cities.

The new system, PhotoCity, grew from the original work of a Cornell computer scientist, Noah Snavely, who while working on his Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Washington, developed a set of algorithms that generated three-dimensional models from unstructured collections of two-dimensional photos.

The original project was dubbed Photo Tourism and it has since been commercialized as Microsoft’s Photosynth service, making it possible for users to upload collections of photos that can then be viewed in a quasi three-dimensional montage with a Web browser.

However, Photosynth collections are generally limited to dozens or hundreds of photos. The researchers wanted to push — or “scale” — their technology to be able to handle tens of thousands or even millions of photos. They also wanted to use computer processing power to transform the photos into true three-dimensional images, or what they refer to as a “dense point cloud.”

The visualization technology is already able to quickly process large collections of digital photos of an object like a building and render ghostly and evocative three-dimensional images. To do this they use a three-stage set of algorithms that begins by creating a “sparse point cloud” with a batch of photos, renders it as a denser image, capturing much of the original surface texture of the object, and then renders it in three dimensions.

Full Press: nytimes.com



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