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Stumbling Start For Microsoft's 3D Photo Service

It wasn't as stumbling a start as the recent launch of the new search engine Cuil, but Microsoft's new photo-stitching service Photosynth did have a rough first day before things smoothed out. The site went dark for a few hours after being overwhelmed by visitors.

"The Photosynth site is a little overwhelmed," Microsoft said in a post to the Live Labs blog a day after it launched late last week.

"Getting ready for the launch we did massive amounts of performance testing, built capacity model after capacity model, and yet with all of that, you threw so much traffic our way that we need to add more capacity. We are adding that extra horsepower right now and should be back up shortly," said one update on the Synth Blog that started with the word Yikes!

Photosynth is a project from Microsoft Research that takes multiple photos and creates a three-dimensional space that lets the user fly "through" the world of the picture, or get a 3D look at an item, such as a car.

If a person wants to post a car for sale, instead of posting a few pictures of the car, they can take a multitude of pictures and Photosynth turns it into a three dimensional object that people can walk around and look at from every angle, so long as there are pictures of it.

It requires a new way of thinking when it comes to photos, said Joshua Edwards, Photosynth product manager. The first new rule is to take more pictures. "Most of us started in the age of film where you take one picture but don't take the things that are not important," he told InternetNews.com.

"This has helped people quickly evolve and learn how the technology works," he added. "It has been real interesting to see how quickly people have mastered all those concepts. Most people are learning to adjust. When they started, they were throwing 20 pics up, then it went up to 200 pics, then went down to 30."

The technology used by the service was developed by Microsoft's Live Labs group, in collaboration with the University of Washington. It requires the installation of an ActiveX browser on the client computer, and users must connect to Photosynth.com to upload photos and manipulate them.

Edwards said for all the uses he could dream up for Photosynth, there are many more he couldn't imagine. "It will be up to people to decide what they do with it," he said. "There are a lot of apps the 15 of us on the development team haven't even conceived of."

He's heard of people documenting their home for insurance purposes, a high-end resort making walk-through videos, auto sellers making a 3D image of their car, and Hollywood studios talk of using it for location scouting.

Edwards said the project isn't focused on monetization at this point. "We're looking at how we can quickly innovate," he said. "The business models for this technology are largely driven by how people come to terms with it. A large part of our focus was just to show the world this was possible. I think this will start a debate and open up the discussion with others on what is possible."