GCN Tech Blog

By GCN Staff

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Inauguration Day technologies shine

The role of technology on Inauguration Day, like many of the logistical and security issues surrounding that event, got more media attention than usual even if as a background story to the day’s primary event.

Much of that attention revolved around the volume of online streaming video traffic that reached unprecedented heights on Inauguration Day. CNN alone reported that as of 6 p.m. Jan. 20, CNN.com Live had served more than 25 million live streams globally—and CNN.com had served more than 158.5 million pages so far that day. 

Moreover, CNN.com Live estimates it served more than 1.3 million concurrent live streams during its peak, which occurred immediately prior to President Obama’s inaugural address. It was forced to limit the number of viewers of its online stream during the speech, but was prepared for peak demands by using a waiting-room strategy, where viewers were queued up in order and fed live video streams as capacity became available, a CNN.com spokesperson said.

But perhaps the more impressive technology story on Inauguration Day was the interactive use of software from Microsoft, called Photosynth, that captured thousands of photos from the Inauguration Day crowd, transmitted to CNN via cell phones and stitched them together in a powerful 3-D interactive mosaic available online and featured during CNN’s broadcasts.

Photosynth, as many who follow the work of Microsoft Live Labs know, uses two remarkable technical tools in one product: a viewer for downloading and navigating these complex visual spaces and a "synther" for creating them in the first place. The combination makes it possible to position and reconstruct slices of a 3-D world from flat photographs by mapping common image elements.

The technologies stem from Seadragon, a startup Microsoft acquired in 2006 whose technology is “capable of delivering a buttery-smooth experience browsing massive quantities of visual information over the Internet. It is all the detail you want, exactly when you want it, with predictable performance regardless of the amount of data—from megapixels to gigapixels,” according to a Microsoft information page. 

The other technology relies on the work  of Noah Snavely, Steve Seitz, and Richard Szeliski and a prototype they developed called photo tourism.  The idea was simple: Given a few dozen or few hundred photos of a place, is there enough information to reconstruct a 3-D model of that place? The advanced computer vision techniques pioneered in pursuit of this goal formed the basis of the synther.

Clearly the CNN demonstration for Inauguration Day viewers is likely to unleash new interest and applications of Photosynth for a variety of government and military work.

Posted by Wyatt Kash on Jan 22, 2009 at 9:39 AM


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