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Recreating cities using online photos
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You are currently in Film, Photography, Digital Animation, Broadcasting / Production
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Fri Nov 16, 2007 7:35 am Reply and quote this post
The billion of images available from a site like Flickr hasstimulated the imagination of many researchers. After designing tools using Flickr to edit your photos, another team at the University of Washington (UW) is using our vacation photos to create 3D models of world landmarks.But recreating original scenes is challenging because all the photos weput on Flickr and similar sites don’t exhibit the same quality. Anyway,with such a large number of pictures available, the researchers havebeen able to reconstruct with great accuracy virtual 3D model oflandmarks, including Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and the Statue ofLiberty in New York City.

You can see above an example of the accuracy reached by the computerscientists. They’ve used 56 images of the Pisa Duomo taken by 8photographers to reconstruct a digital version. You can see on top amerged surface model from the 56 depth maps. On the bottom left, youcan compare it with a partial model of the Duomo acquired with atime-of-flight laser scanning system. The false color rendering on thebottom right shows the registered models overlaid on top of each other.And the team found that “90% of the reconstructed samples are within0.128m of the laser scanned model of this 51m high building.” (Credit:UW)
This research project has been led by Steve Seitz, a UW associate professor of computer science and engineering, and Michael Goesele, a former postdoctoral researcher at the UW who is now a professor at Technische Universität Darmstadt in Germany. Other researchers involved in the project include Noah Snavely, a UW doctoral student in computer science and engineering, Brian Curless, a UW associate professor of computer science and engineering; and Hugues Hoppe, a researcher at Microsoft Research in Redmond, Washington.
But how these researchers were able to reach such an accuracy? “Tomake the 3D digital model, the researchers first download photos of alandmark. For instance, they might download the roughly 60,000 pictureson Flickr that are tagged with the words ‘Statue of Liberty.’ Thecomputer finds photos that it will be able to use in the reconstructionand discards pictures that are of low quality or have obstructions. Photo Tourism,a tool developed at the UW, then calculates where each person wasstanding when he or she took the photo. By comparing two photos of thesame object that were taken from slightly different perspectives, thesoftware applies principles of computer vision to figure out thedistance to each point.”
And how long does it take to digitally reconstruct a buildingstarting from online images? “In tests, a computer took less than twohours to make a 3D reconstruction of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome,using 151 photos taken by 50 different photographers. A reconstructionof Notre Dame Cathedral used 206 images taken by 92 people. All thecalculations and image sorting were performed automatically.”
For more information, this research work has been presented at the International Conference on Computer Vision (ICCV 2007), which was held last month in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Here is a link to this paper, “Multi-View Stereo for Community Photo Collections”(PDF format, 8 pages, 8.75 MB), from which the above image has beenextracted. The UW researchers also presented another paper, “Scene Summarization for Online Image Collections” (PDF format, 8 pages, 2.27 MB), which is also worth reading.
Finally, for your viewing pleasure, here are three additional linksabout this research project, which contain many more images andreferences.

Sources: University of Washington News, November 1, 2007; and various websites
You’ll find related stories by following the links below.

Contributed by Editorial Team, Executive Management Team
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