Just came across this via digg – Microsoft Live Labs has come up with a really cool idea called Photosynth. Basically the idea is to take a large number of photos shot at the same location and merge them into a 3-D virtual world through which one can walk through; the details being provided by the photographs. Microsoft is envisaging that given enough data, you would be able to create tours of entire cities with this – though I doubt that will happen. What is definitely possible if they’ve got the vision research correct though, is that popular locations can be mapped out with great degrees of accuracy.
One big application of this idea would be for the software to look at a photograph you’ve taken, recognize the location and throw you into the walkthrough composed using different photographs and allow you to explore the location in 3-D. A very, very cool application of research if they can do it well.
A video explaining Photosynth is available here.