Apr 22, 2011 | Category: Google
From the presidential inauguration to the World Series to gorgeous cityscapes, for the past few years the GigaPan team at Carnegie Mellon University has been making it possible to explore breathtaking panoramic photos from around the world. GigaPan pioneered the hardware design that captures these photos and used innovative rendering techniques—similar to those of Google Maps—to create seamless transitions between photos, so people can pan and zoom through the image for an interactive and incredibly detailed photo experience.
Yesterday, the GigaPan team took their creative and technical skills to the next level with the GigaPan Time Machine, which brings this same kind of visual interactivity to video using the power of HTML5 and modern browser technology. Time Machine works particularly well on Google Chrome, thanks to its support for the latest HTML5 features and its stability architecture, which ensures it can smoothly run complex web applications without crashing. Time Machine is featured on the gallery of Chrome Experiments, a showcase of creative web applications submitted by developers around the world, and built using the latest web technologies.
The sophisticated cameras the GigaPan team uses for their photographs capture hundreds or even thousands of digital pictures and stitch them together to form an interactive panorama. With Time Machine, the cameras capture these image mosaics at regular intervals to create a video with hundreds of millions or even billions of pixels in each frame. The result is a video that viewers have the ability to zoom in on while it’s playing and see incredible detail.
With Time Machine, watching paint dry or grass grow is actually pretty cool. Take a look at a table full of potted plants grow and bloom into flowers. Zoom in to examine a specific plant or even a single leaf, or watch a caterpillar bite off a leafy green for lunch.
One of the critical elements of making Time Machine work was developing algorithms that allow the site to shift seamlessly from one portion of a video to another, to give people the experience of zooming and panning across a video of almost limitless resolution. This is particularly challenging because a seamless transition between videos requires starting a new video before the old one is finished, and then queueing it to align perfectly in time before the swap. The GigaPan researchers were able to accomplish this successfully using HTML5’s video tag feature, as well as by taking advantage of Chrome’s speed and stability to render the content smoothly as videos start and stop dynamically.
While you can’t fast-forward to the weekend (yet), head over to GigaPan’s Time Machine to zoom around in space and time with some of the samples, or create your own Time Warp by building your own animated tour through any of the sample videos.
Posted by Rachel Durfee, Google Blog team