Billion pixel panorama

US researchers have built a low-cost device that enables any digital camera to produce gigapixel panoramas.


Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, in collaboration with scientists at NASA’s Ames Research Center, have built a low-cost device that enables any digital camera to produce gigapixel (billions of pixels) panoramas, called GigaPans.


The technique gives people a new way to make and share images of their environment. It is being used by students to document their communities and by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to make Civil War sites accessible on the web.


To promote further sharing of this imagery, Carnegie Mellon has launched a public Web site called www.gigapan.org where people can upload and interactively explore panoramic images of any format.


In cooperation with Google, researchers have also created a GigaPan layer on Google Earth. Anyone using Google Earth can now fly into these GigaPan panoramas.


Researchers have also begun a public beta process with the GigaPan hardware, web site, and software. The hardware enabling GigaPan images is a robotic camera mount, jointly designed and manufactured by Charmed Labs of Austin, Texas.


The tripod-like mount makes it possible for a digital camera to take hundreds of overlapping images of landscapes, buildings or rooms. Then, using software developed by Carnegie Mellon and Ames, these images can be arranged in a grid and digitally stitched together into a single image that could consist of tens of billions of pixels.


These huge image files can then be explored by zooming in on features of interest in a manner similar to Google Earth.


Last spring, the Pennsylvania Board of Tourism began to use GigaPan to enable people to virtually explore Civil War sites. The technology is also being used for Robot250, an arts-based robotics program in the Pittsburgh area. Robot250 aims to teach students, artists and other members of the public how to build customised robots.