Thursday, May 1, 2008

Photosynth Takes a Star Turn

Microsoft's Photosynth software was a star in last night's episode of "CSI: NY," a popular TV crime series. The technology creates a collection of two-dimensional images in a three-dimensional environment, allowing people to quickly zoom around to view different details.

In the episode, the CSI detectives investigated the murder of a high school guidance counselor, who is found during a school dance with his face melted off. Through the science of Photosynth, the team finds that the killer is a student, who turns out to be a thirty-something rather than a teenager.

So how did Photosynth save the day? The software allowed the detectives to stitch together images (taken on cell phones by students at the dance) and create a three-dimensional map of the high school gym, to re-create the scene of the crime.

As the product is not yet publicly available, last night was the first opportunity for most people to see how the software works. And apparently Microsoft didn’t have to pay a dime for this coverage.

Microsoft reps said that the company did not pay to have Photosynth featured on CSI. But few can argue that Microsoft will largely benefit from this product placement on one of the most popular shows existing today.

During the show, one detective marvels at the clarity of the images on Photosynth. Several other characters refer to the product by name in different scenes. And, last but not least, one of the detectives, near the end of the show, provides one of the greatest Microsoft plugs of all time when he announces: "It's Microsoft's world, kid. I'm just living in it." We could be looking at a whole new world of product placement here.

-- Michelle Savage

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