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Computer scientists create 3D models using millions of 2D images

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November 29, 2010

Researchers have devised a technique that allows a PC to create 3D images of famous landma...

Researchers have devised a technique that allows a PC to create 3D images of famous landmarks, by combining numerous 2D photos of those landmarks from Internet photo sharing sites

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Researchers have devised a technique that allows a computer to create three-dimensional images of famous landmarks, by combining numerous two-dimensional photos of those landmarks from Internet photo sharing sites such as Flickr. For the Building Rome on a Cloudless Day project, 3 million photos of Rome were accessed online, and used to produce 3D images of all the city’s major landmarks. Utilizing commodity graphics hardware, it took a single PC less than one day to accomplish the task.

The project is the work of a combined team from the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill and the Swiss ETH-Zurich. They were also able to create 3D images of landmarks in the city of Berlin.

While programs such as Microsoft’s PhotoSynth already perform a similar function, the new system is said to be much more powerful.

“Our technique would be the equivalent of processing a stack of photos as high as the 828-meter Dubai Towers, using a single PC, versus the next best technique, which is the equivalent of processing a stack of photos 42 meters tall – as high as the ceiling of Notre Dame – using 62 PCs,” said team leader Jan-Michael Frahm, of UNC. “This efficiency is essential if one is to fully utilize the billions of user-provided images continuously being uploaded to the Internet.”

Researchers have devised a technique that allows a PC to create 3D images of famous landma...

Unlike watching a single video, the system could conceivably allow users to view landmarks at different times of day, or in different seasons – perhaps as part of a service like Google Earth. Frahm believes users could also obtain the identity of landmarks simply by taking a photo of them with their smartphone, and that doing so could provide them with their geographical location even more precisely than GPS.

Additionally, he envisions the system being used in disaster relief scenarios. Officials could study 3D still images of disaster sites, created from videos shot by planes flying over those areas.

Images courtesy Building Rome on a Cloudless Day

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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2 Comments

Wow! They have invented photogrammetry and bundle adjustments, something that's been around for, oh, 25 years.

Mickinoz
30th November, 2010 @ 08:41 pm PST

Mickinoz has sadly missed the point of the article, we know the technology is well understood the point is the speed, complexity and reduced processing power required - that's the clever bit.

DaddyHoggy
31st January, 2011 @ 02:16 am PST
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