A group of researchers with University of Washington’s graphics and imaging laboratory (GRAIL) wanted to see if they could build a piece of software that would search the web for images of a particular place and recreate that place in 3D in under a day.
They succeeded, and the team, lead by Sameer Agarwal, created a simulation of Rome using 150,000 images harvested from photo-sharing website Flickr, and build a virtual model within a day.
The team also tested the software on the Croatian city of Dubrovnic and were able to recreate the entire old city, including all the buildings and streets, within 22 hours.
The principle isn’t new – the team previously developed tools which can create 3D models from a collection of photos, which subsequently evolved into Microsoft’s Photosynth. But while that technology was good, “Using the existing system it would have taken years to recreate a whole city,” Agarwal told NewScientist.
Click here for static views of the reconstruction.