If you were among the millions of people watching yesterday's historical presidential inauguration on CNN, you will recall the network's repeated promises to provide an immerse way to see the event up-close and in 3D. As it turns out, CNN didn't strike an exclusive deal with some little-known technology vendor. Instead, it turned to a publicly-available Microsoft Live Labs project called Photosynth to provide this unique look at the inauguration.
Photosynth "stitches" together multiple photos that are taken in an area and creates a virtual 3D environment. This is a far more impressive effect than a simple panoramic stitch, which creates widescreen images from side-by-side photographs. With Photosynth stitches, you can pan and move through the area and see it from different angles. Microsoft's most famous demo of the tool, from last year, takes place in Venice, Italy.
For the inauguration, CNN asked viewers at the event to send in digital photos they took at the moment that Barack Obama was sworn in as the country's 44th president. The network then took these images and created a 3D space that can be zoomed, scrolled through, and seen from any angle. You can view the results on the CNN Web site.
All Photosynth stitches require the free Photosynth and Silverlight plug-ins, which work with both Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox. You can find out more about Photosynth at the Photosynth Web site.
Microsoft also has its own set of inauguration synths here.