A Smoother Street View

Microsoft’s new toy allows for a more seamless walk down an online avenue.

By Tom Simonite
Wednesday, July 28, 2010

New street-level imaging software developed by Microsoft could help people find locations more quickly on the Web. The software could also leave new space for online advertising.

Step back: Street Slide stitches together slices from multiple panoramas, making it possible to see all the shops on a street at once.

Credit: Microsoft Research video

How Street Slide works.

Services like Google Street View and Bing Streetside instantly teleport Web surfers to any street corner from Tucson to Tokyo. However, the panoramic photos these services offer provide only a limited perspective. You can’t travel smoothly down a street. Instead, you have to jump from one panoramic « bubble » to the next–not the ideal way to identify a specific address or explore a new neighborhood.

Microsoft researchers have come up with a refinement to Bing Streetside called Street Slide. It combines slices from multiple panoramas captured along a stretch of road into one continuous view. This can be viewed from a distance, or « smooth scrolled » sideways (see video).

« Today’s services plunk you down inside a bubble in a particular location, » says Michael Cohen, a senior scientist at Microsoft Research. « [Street Slide] helps you actually navigate using street- side imagery. » Cohen developed Street Slide with colleagues at Microsoft; the group’s work will be presented at the SIGGRAPH 2010 computer graphics conference in Los Angeles later this week.

A person using the original version of Streetside (as well as Google’s Street View) can rotate–within a « bubble »–to look in any direction. But this provides only a limited view of the buildings on a street, explains Cohen. « You want to back up until you can see the whole street but can’t because the buildings on the other side are in the way; we create that viewpoint using images taken from all the bubble panoramas along a street. »

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