The CNN-Microsoft project to create a commemorative 3D portrait of the presidential inauguration is live, and you can view it here. Using Microsoft’s Photosynth technology, the joint venture is designed to capture the historical event by stitching together digital photos shared by anyone who was there. The Photosynth software, part of Microsoft’s Virtual Earth software group, lets users create “synths”-3-dimensional renderings of multiple images of the same scene. Users can rotate and view the synths from many angles. The more photos supplied, the better the 3D effect.
The inauguration synth makes for an interesting view. The multiple vantage points do give the viewer a better sense of what the event must have been like live. Navigational arrows appear on screen, making it easy to move between photos, which Photosynth melds together, albeit not always seamlessly. You can rotate images as well. The effect is jarring at times, particularly if you’re prone to motion sickness, but the overall effect is pretty cool.
The real-time aspect of the inauguration synth is a lot of fun. A couple hours after the swearing-in, for instance, the 3D portrait had just a handful of long-range shots of the event. Within minutes, however, more photos were added, including several close-ups of Obama taking the oath of office. The CNN-Microsoft is an intriguing experiment in citizen journalism that may have a bright future.