How many Flickr users does it take to recreate Rome?

Posted on September 22, 2009. Filed under: Tech News | Tags: , |

By Nik Fletcher, Downloadsquad

rome-coliseum2

Flickr is one of my favourite all-time web services, and I’ll admit a huge fascination with some of the visualisation stuff the Flickr folks do with maps, Flickr photos and their location data. So you can imagine my excitement last week as Popular Science featured a piece on how a University of Washington Graphics team automatically recreated Rome with images from Flickr. The team took photos from 150,000 Flickr users, and using some custom algorithms recreated Rome automatically using 500 computers and 13 hours processing time. They even went one better and also recreated the slowly-sinking city of Venice, and built that 3D virtual model from 250,000 photos in under a day.

By now you’re probably thinking ‘that’s an incredibly long time to render’ – however the team is touting the speed of the 3D model building here too. The technology used in Microsoft’s PhotoSynth product (which also originated at the same research lab) would have taken a calendar year to automatically build the same 3D model of Venice.

Be sure to take a look at the video tours over on the Popular Science Web site, and see the end results from Flickr’s library – the team have set their sights on a million-image based rendering of a city in the future, so hopefully there’s plenty more of these to come!

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