Microsoft’s latest and greatest photostitching app makes the bold claim that it is 30x more detailed than HDTV. The catch? While breathtaking, its not a moving image. While you are able to “move” around within the pseudo-3D image, no action takes place. The highly detailed panorma is effective for large, outdoor vistas but the tech itself is not truly comparable to the moving image an HDTV provides. Despite the apples to oranges comparison to HDTV, the program, Photosynth, has many of its own unique uses in the tech world for any device that supports WebGL (sorry iPad users).

From The New York Times

I recently visited the top of Mount Everest. Well, at least it felt like I did.

I was actually sitting in my office, using Microsoft’s latest update to Photosynth on my computer, a sophisticated technology that stitches together overlapping photos into an interactive panorama.

While online panoramas have been available for years, the new updates to Photosynth, which will be available on a first-come first-serve basis Tuesday, can now create panoramas that are hyper-detailed and actually look 3-D.

How 3-D? Seeing Mount Everest on my computer was one of those oh-wow-how-did-they-make-this moments.

Microsoft said it is able to make the 3-D panorama look so realistic by actually creating a sort-of 3-D model of a photo using proprietary algorithms, then taking high-resolutions photos and layering them on top of each other. The company’s latest updates also make panoramas much smoother and speedier — they could sometimes be jittery in the earlier versions of the software.

The new software shows images almost like a high-resolution video that is fully interactive. Swiping your mouse up will move you forward on the screen; swiping down will smoothly bring you backwards through an image.

MicrosoftThe image above is pieced together in 3-D. Below, an images show how a Photosynth photo is layered together.

The images are incredibly detailed, too. The Mount Everest Photosynth demo was shot by David Brashears, a mountaineer, and is made up of 177 different 60-megapixel photos. Microsoft says this resolution allows the panorama to play like a video that is 30 times more detailed than an HDTV signal.

David Gedye, lead program manager at Microsoft, said that while there is an artistic goal to offer people software that makes these types of images, there is also a business reason behind the software.

“At Microsoft, we’ve long had a goal of documenting the important places in the world and sharing them on Bing,” he said in a phone interview, referring to the company’s search engine. “We don’t need to drive trucks or employ people to capture the world, we can work with enthusiasts who take these pictures” and then stitch them all together in a highly immersive way.

Mr. Gedye said that adding these images to Microsoft’s search features, including Bing search and its mapping software, makes a more compelling offering for users who are searching through Microsoft products.

“It’s about giving this power to Bing to make it a place where things are really presented beautifully and in a place where it’s immersive and interactive,” he said. People can also use the updated software to document their own objects or places that can be embedded on a personal website.

The new software does not work on iPads or smartphones that don’t support WebGL, a JavaScript 3-D rendering engine. But Microsoft said it is working on updates that will enable the software, or a variation of it, on these platforms.

The company also plans to add updates to Photosynth apps that allow people to create these immersive images on their smartphones. Until then, users will have to upload an array of photos to the Photosynth website to be turned into an interactive 3-D space.