USC tech aligns 2D photos in 3D space

April 11, 2008 | 08:29

Tags: #geotagging #google-earth #usc #viewfinder

Hackers over at the University of Southern California have unveiled an interesting little project dubbed Viewfinder which aims to “spatially situate” 2D imagery in a 3D environment.

Any walker with a GPS, camera, and copy of Google Earth will be familiar with geotagging – adding location information into the EXIF data of photographs. Geotagging allows images to be loaded into Google Earth in such a way that they are visible in the precise area where the original image was taken – which is pretty cool.

The Viewfinder project takes this idea and extends it to its logical conclusion – mapping a two dimensional photograph onto the three dimensional space provided in applications like Google Earth. The team behind the technology describes it as “an experience that is as visceral as Google Earth and as accessible as Flickr.

The video of the technology in action is certainly pretty impressive, and whilst I wouldn't call it a 'killer app' it's a neat extension of the current ability to accurately pin your photographs down to a mapped location. It also makes for a neat take on a slideshow, and could be an excellent way to drum up a bit of interest in your holiday snaps.

Although the procedure for 'posing' photographs is largely manual at the moment, the team expects that cameras available in the future will have “the sensing and intelligence to fully automate this process,” and describes Viewfinder as “a getting-from-here-to-there strategy; it is an artistic intervention as well as a technological innovation.

Unfortunately, you'll have to wait a while to start spatially situating your own photographs: although the university has clear plans to commercialise the technology, having applied for a patent, the team won't be releasing the software until an average ten year old is able to 'pose' a photograph in under a minute. How long until the technology reaches that level of maturity – or, indeed, immaturity – remains to be seen.

A neat trick, or can you see real uses for the technology? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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