Groundbreaking Digital Experience for Endeavour Shuttle Launch


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Microsoft's Photosynth 3-D imagery gives people around the world unprecedented views of the shuttle vehicle and its launchpad.

REDMOND, Wash. -- Aug. 5, 2007 -- For the first time, people around the world can view 3-D images of the space shuttle Endeavour and surrounding buildings at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida before it launches into space, through a collaboration between Microsoft Corp. and NASA. Microsoft(R) Live Labs and NASA developed the environments using hundreds of photographs and a photo-imaging technology called Photosynth(TM). Photosynth uses hundreds of standard digital camera images to construct a 3-D view of an environment that can be navigated and explored in a highly intuitive manner.

Online viewers can go to http://media.labs.live.com/photosynth/NASA/default.htm to access 3-D images of details such as the shuttle boosters, interior and exterior of the Vehicle Assembly Building, and launchpad. By clicking and dragging their mouse, visitors to the site will be able to explore parts of the shuttle launch, zooming in to see the smallest decorative detail or zooming out and panning 360 degrees to place the shuttle in a wider context.

"This collaboration with Microsoft gives the public a new way to explore and participate in America's space program," said William Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for Space Operations. "We are looking into ways of using this new technology to support future missions."

"With Photosynth, we take pictures of an environment and knit them together into an experience that people can move through like a 3-D video game," said Blaise Aguera y Arcas, architect at Microsoft Live Labs. "NASA provided us with some outstanding images and the result is an experience that will wow anyone wanting to get a closer look at the Endeavour and its travels."

The specific synth collections created for this shuttle launch include these:

  • The interior and surrounding area of the Vehicle Assembly Building (the largest one-story building in the world), used for housing external fuel tanks and flight hardware, and the location of orbiter mating (stacking) with the solid rocket boosters and external fuel tank to prepare the space shuttle for launch.
  • Endeavour on the launchpad, including amazing detail shots taken from a helicopter
  • The previous flight STS-117 shuttle Atlantis returning from Edwards Air Force Base in California to Kennedy's Shuttle Landing Facility

In addition, msnbc.com is providing a multimedia experience of the Endeavour shuttle launch for viewers, and will provide viewers with a link to the video demo at http://spaceworld.msnbc.com of the Endeavour shuttle launch synth collections.

Photosynth was created in collaboration between Microsoft and the University of Washington based on the groundbreaking research of Noah Snavely (UW), Steve Seitz (UW) and Richard Szeliski (Microsoft Research). It combines hundreds or thousands of regular digital photos of a scene to present a detailed 3-D model of a subject, giving viewers the sensation of smoothly gliding around the scene from every angle. The scene can be constructed regardless of whether the photos are from a single or multiple sources. It's like a hybrid of a slide show and a gaming experience that lets the viewer zoom in to see greater detail or zoom out for a more expansive view. Viewing the photos in a 3-D context gives viewers a better sense for the place where the images were captured. A link to the research paper and a video demo of Photosynth can be found at http://labs.live.com/photosynth.

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