Drive To Discover

GigaPan Time Machine shows future of videos

Monday, May 09, 2011

NASA's Ames research Center has developed a way to make extremely high resolution videos -- with consumer cameras -- and show them in a Web browser. They call it the Gigapan Time Machine, because it zooms back and forth through time, too.

It's the highest resolution movie you can view today. Higher than HD. High Definition television becomes Low Definition the moment you zoom in on the picture, because it is painted with only 2 million pixels. This movie is shot with billions of pixels. You can continue to zoom in while the movie is playing.

NASA scientist Terry Fong says, "Each single frame can be billions of pixels in dimension. And you can take them over very long periods of time. Even more, when you look at it with an interface as on the GigaPan website, you can pan around in it."

Fong's Robotics Group at NASA developed the technology jointly with Randy Sargent's CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University.

Here's how it works. Each movie is a composite of dozens of HD videos playing at the same time. They were taken by a robot that pans the lens around while it is taking gigapixel telephoto images, hence the name GigaPan. Anyone can use a dashboard to punch in the number of different views and their locations.

The robotic camera mounts are available to anyone online, in a variety of sizes for all kinds of cameras. So you can not only enjoy GigaPan technology in a Web browser, you can make a GigaPan image or a time machine movie yourself.

And show it online. The server can play them all over the Internet because it streams only the part of the movie you have zoomed into. That's the secret sauce: Stitching the movies, while we are watching, so seamlessly we never notice.

All thanks to powerful modern computer processors, and a new Web technology called HTML5.

When combined with time-lapse over very long times, it becomes a time machine, because you can zoom back and forward through time AND space simultaneously.

One of Randy Sargent's hopes is that, "If we start recording today, people in ten years are going to be able to come go back in time and answer questions that they have then."

They call that the GigaPan Time Machine.

------- Links -------
Gigapan movie home page

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