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Microsoft pictures a 10-gigapixel photo

The Highlander

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Microsoft pictures a 10-gigapixel photo

Forget megapixels, where the resolution of digital images is counted in millions of pixels. Michael Cohen, a scientist at Microsoft Research, is trying to create a photo this summer that will contain 10 billion pixels.


He's already done 4-gigapixel shots of downtown Seattle.


Cohen's work, dubbed Big Panoramas, is an attempt to marry Internet mapping and high-resolution photography. With 4 billion or 10 billion pixels, a single photograph will contain several square miles of real estate in accurate detail. In the Seattle photo, users can zoom in on windows on different buildings, or zoom out to get a view of the entire skyline.


The end result is something akin to the satellite images on services like Google Earth. The difference is that the angle is more familiar. The pictures provide the panorama you might see staring out of a window on a building, or from standing on the sidewalk. Satellite images capture only the unfamiliar bird's-eye views of rooftops.


Ultimately, several-gigapixel shots captured from different angles could be woven together to form a 3D-like photograph consisting of tens of billions of pixels, Cohen said.


The technique involves taking several hundred pictures with a standard digital camera, stitching the photos together and then compensating for changes in the position of the sun, the movement of clouds and other environmental factors during the time it took to take all of the photos.


In 2004, engineers in the Netherlands stitched together 600 individual images shot over the course of more than an hour to create a photo with almost 2.5 billion pixels.


The 4-gigapixel photo of downtown Seattle required shooting more than 800 photos taken in an hour and a half. The lighting and different exposure conditions that existed during that time period, however, are neutralized so that it looks like the entire image was captured at a single moment.


"With a 10-megapixel camera, a 10-gigapixel picture takes at least 1,000 pictures," he noted.


The camera is not held by a person. It sits in a motorized rig and the angle of the rig and camera are controlled by a computer.


Digital cameras aimed at consumers, by contrast, typically offer resolutions of about 5 or 6 megapixels.


World's biggest digital pic

A group of Dutch engineers has produced the world's largest known digital photograph--a 7.5GB monster that consists of almost 2.5 billion pixels.


The Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), a research and engineering conglomerate involved in fields ranging from aerospace to petroleum, announced the creation in a posting on the group's Web site Tuesday. The site includes a condensed version of the photo and a Flash-based application for viewing details

The photo--an aerial image of the city of Delft that's unlikely to spur a sudden upswing in tourism there--consists of 600 individual images shot over the course of more than an hour. The images were then stitched together on a computer.


"It took about 24 hours to compare the overlapping photos and optimize them," according to the TNO statement. "Stitching the photos into one image required the capacity of five high-end PCs for three full days."


The image consists of precisely 2.487 billion pixels and would measure about 22 feet by 8.7 feet if printed at a standard resolution of 300 dots per inch. By contrast, typical consumer digital cameras capture images with 3 million to 5 million pixels.


The TNO team had to write its own software for much of the image-stitching work, including devising a new file format. The TIF format typically used for high-definition photos maxes out at 4GB. The group also solved temporary storage issues by creating a FireWire link between the camera and a laptop PC to capture images, bypassing the camera's memory card.


The TNO engineers pay credit to the previous record holder, photographer Max Lyons, who broke the 1 billion pixels mark last year with his panoramic image of Utah's Bryce Canyon National Park.

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I hate to mention it Lynn, but you won't get a 56k connection from a "56k" connection. That's another "truth in advertising" issue.


The older computer, with V.90, gets 44k.

The newer computer, with V.92 (which is faster), gets 33k.


With the new computer, since WinXP isn't bothered by having a lot of windows up, I click on what I want and then read the paper or whatever while I wait.



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