Stunning Gigapixel Images Courtesy of Microsoft's HD View

Beta 2

Following Siggraph 2007 in San Diego this week, Microsoft has made available for download the beta 2 build of its HD View, an application and system developed by Microsoft Research's Interactive Visual Media group. The viewer is designed to handle extremely large, Gigapixel images, and permit seamless user interaction with the content made up of billions of pixels (gigapixels). Essentially, HD View is an ActiveX browser component for the Windows platform. The viewer will expand the display capabilities of monitors that are limited to approximately 2 million pixels. Via HD View, users will be able to see panoramic images covering wide fields of view without any problems.

HD View is a "system to capture and view "Gigapixel images": very high resolution, high dynamic range, and wide angle imagery consisting of several billion pixels each. A specialized camera mount, in combination with an automated pipeline for alignment, exposure compensation, and stitching, provide the means to acquire Gigapixel images with a standard camera and lens. More importantly, our novel viewer enables exploration of such images at interactive rates over a network, while dynamically and smoothly interpolating the projection between perspective and curved projections, and simultaneously modifying the tone-mapping to ensure an optimal view of the portion of the scene being viewed," Microsoft revealed.

With the availability of HD View Beta 2, Microsoft has also introduced support for Firefox, on top of Internet Explorer. Now just by visiting one of Microsoft's Gigapixel images websites with either Firefox or IE will prompt the user to install the plug-in. And with the beta 2 version, the Redmond company also introduced Auto Tone Adjust.

"The basic idea is that HD View now acts a bit like the auto-gain of your camera. So as you zoom into dark regions you should see additional shadow details. It actually is more sophisticated than auto-gain and generally produces better looking images. For example in regions of the big images that are flat due to haze, the auto tone-adjust feature increases the contrast. The icons here represent none, medium and strong adjustment that you can cycle through. Below are the none (left) and strong (right) settings for the Mt. Rainier portion of our Kerry Park Gigapixel image. Notice some of the flatness due to the haze has been removed," explained Matt Uyttendaele, Microsoft Research.