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Microsoft, CNN team up to make historians out of inaugural attendees

Going to watch Obama take the oath? Your digital pics may be used to create a wide-reaching, 3-D view

January 19, 2009 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Microsoft Corp. is teaming up with CNN to make average people virtual historians.

CNN.com has put out a call for the millions of people attending President-Elect Barack Obama's inauguration at noon on Tuesday. Anyone there can send in their digital pictures of the moment Obama takes the oath of office and, using Microsoft's Photosynth technology, CNN will stitch the photos together into what it's hoping will be "the most detailed experience of a single moment ever," according to a request for photos on CNN.com.

"We're partnering with CNN to gather thousands of your photographs to create an immersive experience of the moment when President Obama takes the Oath of Office. From the vast sweep of the crowd to a close-up on the President's hand on the Bible, every part of this historic scene will be frozen in time and presented in 3-D as only Photosynth can," Microsoft said on its Photosynth blog. "We'll take your photos from every angle, combine them with CNN's professional shots, and produce what we hope will be an amazing experience that will be shown live on CNN."

Photosynth, developed in a collaboration between Microsoft and the University of Washington, is designed to enable users to take regular digital photos and transform them into a three-dimensional, 360-degree visual. Users can spin the resulting visual around so they can look at it from different angles or even zoom in and out.

CNN isn't alone. MSNBC used the technology to put together photos from the pre-inaugural concert held Sunday afternoon at the Lincoln Memorial.

CNN and Microsoft are giving people who will be at the inauguration specific instructions.

Anyone with a camera phone is being asked to take a single picture of the moment Obama raises his hand to take the oath of office and e-mail it to cnnmoment@live.com as soon as possible. "Don't worry if he's too small to see clearly in your photo. As long as you get the Capitol building in your shot, it will synth in and help reconstruct the environment," Microsoft said.

People with digital cameras are being asked to take three photos -- a wide-angle, midrange and zoom -- of the swearing-in. Those photos should be e-mailed to the same address as quickly as possible. Microsoft also is asking that the messages be kept under 10MB in size -- even if it means sending the photos in separate e-mails.

Other news operations are also looking to technology to chronicle the historic moment. The New York Times is making its own call for photo submissions from the inauguration. The Times is asking for inauguration-related photos that range from shots of the preceremony setup to the actual inauguration and the Tuesday night parties. Photos of inauguration parties outside of Washington also can be submitted.

The Times, which will publish the photos in an online readers' album, is asking that the photos be sent to pix@nyt.com and include the photographer's full name, as well as where the picture was taken. The e-mails should be kept under 5MB and be in a JPEG format.

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