April 18, 2007 This ingenious company has worked out how to map distance, perspective and depth onto a two-dimensional photograph, and use it to create a stunning 3-D world. Exploring your photos in 3-D makes them somehow feel like video game levels. Incredible stuff, and very moving.
The Fotowoosh technology works by interpreting the photo data to decide which points are intersections with the ground. It measures this against a defined horizon line to determine distances, and then goes about "folding" the photo along logical lines to create a 3-D model of the scene. Textures are mapped onto the 3-D model, copied directly from the photo, and the resulting pop-up image is rendered in 3-D.
The company's material explains: "The photo pop-up algorithm consists of two main stages: estimating a rough labeling of the geometry of the image and using that geometric information to construct a 3D model. The first of these stages tends to be fairly accurate and results in probability maps for each of three main geometric classes (ground, vertical, sky) and five subclasses of vertical (planar facing left/right/center, porous, and solid)."
It's far from perfect at this stage, the company admits: "The second stage of constructing the model works in limited scenarios. If you can imagine constructing a pop-up of the image by making a few straight cuts and a few straight folds, then the algorithm might be successful; otherwise it is likely to give some very rough approximation of the scene."
Details on how the method works can be found in Fotowoosh's SIGGRAPH, ICCV, and IJCV (draft) papers online.
While you currently need a VMRL client such as Cortona to view the resulting landscapes, it is also possible to create short animations that deliver a similar effect, as seen on the Fotowoosh homepage.
That effect is simply so jaw-dropping that if pricing and automation issues are addressed well, and a few bugs addressed, this technology could simply explode across the Web. No prior technology comes close to providing the same feeling of walking around inside a photograph. It has real estate written all over it, but could also be used to bring life to historical photos, product photos, touring and travel photos to name a few.
Of course, since it operates on any 2-D image, it also offers an unique opportunity to step inside a Van Gogh, for instance. And who knows what the ever-innovative pornography sector will make of it!
No business model has yet been made clear, but it is expected to be run as a service, at least initially. We look forward to seeing this project developing.