Stunning: Yosemite Extreme Gigapixel Panoramic Imaging Project

First, Microsoft deserves a kudo for its Pro Photo Summit. John Harrington wrote up the highlights and linked to many of the coolest things.

But the coolest thing I saw on Wednesday?

Was something I saw at lunch: the Yosemite Extreme Gigapixel Panoramic Imaging Project. They mapped out Yosemite with 20 high-resolution panoramic cameras. To give you an idea how cool these images are, here’s an earlier version they did. The 20 new images should be up on the xRez site this week, they told me.

I liked it so much that I did three videos. If you only have time for one, watch this 17-minute video, which is the second one below.

The first video was one I filmed during lunch with Greg Downing and Eric Hanson, co founders of xRez Studios, which did the xRez Yosemite Gigapixel Project. They are the two geeks who built the systems to stitch together these huge images (gigapixels). Digital Producer has an indepth article on the technology they are using.

The second video and third video I filmed after the summit’s first day ended and things were a little quieter. This time Bill Crow of Microsoft’s Live Labs joined us. You can read his blog here, which is on HD Photography. These two videos not only give you a good tour around the Yosemite project, which contains some of the highest-resolution images of Yosemite ever seen (so much detail is in them that you can zoom into climbers on the top of Half Dome), but also Bill explains the technology that lets you view and zoom these images over the Internet. It’s called “Seadragon” and it’s quite remarkable. I wish these videos were a little sharper, but you’ll get the idea of just how cool this technology is.

Yes, that’s Thomas Hawk sitting next to Bill Crow.

Oh, and all of this stuff is demoed on Microsoft’s new Surface table-top computer, which is quite remarkable too. This is the first time I’ve really gotten a good hands-on look at the Surface and I see a TON of stuff that I liked a lot. I could play with one of those for hours.

Think Microsoft isn’t innovative? You can’t say that anymore, sorry.

Oh, and one more example of what Microsoft is doing in photography that just is magical: Microsoft’s Deep Photo. Dan Fay got first video of this new project and it’s wow. You’ll hear me in the front row saying “wow” when researcher Michael Cohen uses this technology to remove haze from an image of New York City.

How is technology changing the world of Washington D.C.?

Jesse Lee blogging in WordPress

When I walked into the Speaker of the House’s press room and saw a staff member (Jesse Lee, Senior New Media Advisor for Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi) typing a blog into WordPress, I knew the world had changed (I remarked that I knew that Matt Mullenweg, founder of Automattic which makes WordPress, was a smart guy from the first time I met him). That’s Jesse on this post typing into his WordPress-run blog.

When I was talking with Senator Tom Coburn and he didn’t flinch when we turned on our live cameras during our interview, I knew the world had changed.

When I pulled out my cell phone like a tourist and no one looked at me like I was a dork, I knew the world had changed.

When I was talking with Representative Tim Ryan and he was talking about debating his fellow Congressmen via Twitter, I knew the world had changed. (Here’s his Twitter account).

When I visited the Senate Chambers and saw laptops on the floor, I knew the world had changed.

When I was talking with Representative John Culberson and he talked about showing President Bush Twitter and Qik (and getting shut down by the Secret Service), (Part I, Part II, Andrew Feinberg filmed the whole thing with his camera here). I knew the world had changed. Plus he ambushed a TMZ video crew this afternoon.

Some things that haven’t changed?

1. The President, today, was shown Qik and Twitter by Congressman John Culberson. Here’s his Qik account. Here’s his Twitter account. Culberson said he was amazed by the technology and almost agreed to do the first Qik interview from the Oval Office, but that the Secret Service jumped in and said that that was a no-no. His Twitter message from the Oval Office is the first from the White House that Culberson knows about.

2. The press room at the Senate was fairly old school. Laptops and cell phones are not allowed into Senate chambers. Culberson, in his interview with us, told us that he was going to break rules and bring his cell phone into some congressional hearings and film them so his constituency can see what goes on.

3. Culberson had not yet seen FriendFeed, but said that he’d been shown Summize (live Twitter search engine)┬áby Erica O’Grady. He promised me he’d try FriendFeed.

At one point I looked at my son, Patrick, who is helping me out on this trip, and wondered just how much the world would change in his lifetime?

Tomorrow more questions and answers as we do even more interviews.

Visit NYC & Washington D.C. with us

Tonight my 14-year-old son, Rocky (my producer), and I leave SFO to start what is bound to be one of the most interesting weeks in our lives. One thing we’re going to try to do is bring you along whenever possible. Before I get to that, though, I can’t say thank you enough to Andrew Feinberg of Capitol Valley.net and Washington Internet Daily enough for getting us into see some really interesting people. He, and his team, have been doing all sorts of work with us for months to make this trip happen and he’s been doing it for free without any expectation of anything in return. Unbelieveable guy and team and all of us at FastCompany greatly appreciate his partnership.

Here’s where to follow me:

1. On my Qik channel. I’ll do frequent live Qik videos. I’ll try to Twitter when interesting ones are about to start.
2. On my Twitter feed. I frequently Twitter from the road about what we’re doing and experiencing, plus I can answer your questions there.
3. On my FriendFeed. Even better place to talk with me. My Twitters, photos, and other things, show up on FriendFeed within minutes of me doing them and this is the best place to talk with me. I probably spend 80% of my time there, so watch this to see the best stuff.
4. Another important feed to watch is my “Likes” feed on FriendFeed. This is totally different than #3 and is YOUR stuff that I’ve “Liked.” If you want to see if there’s some value to FriendFeed this is a good place to lurk and it’s where I track the top news items.
5. On my Flickr feed I’ll post photos. My Nokia phones can get photos up within seconds of me taking them.
6. I’ll be participating in the chat room on my Kyte.tv channel — the chat room there is better because it stays up permanently and I can participate in it via text, audio, or video.
7. Rocky Barbanica, my producer, has a Twitter feed too, and so does Andrew Feinberg.

I probably won’t write many blogs here until I get back. We’re just way too busy. Check out our schedule.

TODAY: A BBQ with my dad and brother and our family. We take the red-eye to New York tonight at about 10 p.m.
SUNDAY: A free day in NYC. The Personal Democracy Forum is throwing a dinner in the evening, which we’ll attend.
MONDAY: We’re attending the Personal Democracy Forum and I’m on a panel where we’ll be talking about the Live Web (of which you are getting a great demo of above). The panel is at 2 p.m. Eastern Time. I’m sure we’ll Twitter and Qik and Kyte that a bit. After the panel we’ll take the train to Washington DC.
TUESDAY: Most of these interviews will be 15 minutes and we’ll be literally running from one interview to the next. I am not sure which ones I’ll be able to Qik, but we’ll try to Qik at least some of them:

WEDNESDAY:

THURSDAY:

  • Still being planned out. Possible tour of White House. Also will probably play tourist and see the Newseum and other museums. Jim Long, NBC Camera person at the White house, and famous Twitterer, is working on something, but hasn’t been firmed up yet.

Whew!

Anyway, please come along and we’ll try to get you to participate. If you have any specific questions for any of these people, please leave them here and we’ll read them during our interviews.

This is why I love the tech industry…

Sometimes I get caught up in all the bubble and ego talk. You know, all that stuff that the industry insiders care about and what keeps tech blogging sometimes feeling like a high school (who has the bigger ego? The bigger puppet? Who is going to start a snit on Gillmor Gang? Etc. Etc.)

That stuff is all fun for the insiders as they create drama so that we’ll get you to pay attention and engage with us comment on our blogs.

But then, once in a while, something will happen that’ll snap you out of the World Wide High School and remind you that this industry does, indeed, create cool stuff that makes our lives more productive and interesting. Well, actually, for me, that happens very often because I have a front-row-seat on this industry and get to see tons of interesting stuff.

But this is one of those times when what you’re seeing and who you’re talking with is much more interesting than usual. And the response from people who participate (this was filmed live, with a live audience) tells me that I’m not alone in recognizing this was a special moment for my camera.

So, that was a long way of saying, don’t miss this conversation with Microsoft Researcher Andy Wilson. He’s the guy behind the “Surface” technology that you use your hands on. Thursday at Microsoft’s Silicon Valley offices he was showing off his latest version of that technology and taking questions from some interesting people themselves (my producer, Rocky Barbanica, who was a software developer for two decades before going back to film school, as well as someone from Symantec’s CTO Office were part of the conversation, along with people who dropped by my Qik channel while I was filming these).

It’s split into a few pieces because the cell phone connection died a couple of times, but you’ll see why I started up the phone again.

Part I 28 minutes long.
Part II 1 minute long.
Part III 6 minutes long. (physical objects interacting with virtual ones — freaking cool — he also explains the algorithm behind “pinch” interfaces).

Bonus interview: Research team that does bilingual translations live on Web pages, IM, and other places (Twitter?). That one is seven minutes and 43 seconds long.

This stuff is just so cool. If you agree, can you link to this from your Twitter account, your blog, or vote for this on Digg or Reddit? This conversation deserves a far wider distribution than my usual stuff because it could inspire kids to see how just one developer can change what we think of the tech industry. Thanks to Andy Wilson for the inspiring conversation and thanks to Microsoft Research for hiring him and helping this conversation to happen!

Seeing the first Ethernet cable (and reusable paper) at Xerox PARC

I got a tour of Xerox PARC and got a look at a few research projects as part of a press day today. That all is pretty cool, you can see my videos over on my Qik page, there’s a few.

But the last one was pretty fun. The President of PARC, Mark Bernstein, gave me a tour around the famous lab where so much of our world was invented. We started at the first Ethernet cable in the world.

If you don’t know why Xerox PARC is so important, please read up on it on Wikipedia.

At the end of the interview I asked Mark if he met Steve Jobs the day that he visited back in the early 1980s (which was a famous meeting in of itself). I love his answer about that day, but I’ll let you listen to the video.

I have a feeling the wall in the video where the Ethernet cable is will eventually be cut out and put into the Smithsonian. It’s a hugely important piece of cable to our history. It was an honor to see it in place.

Here’s a video of the reusable paper that the researchers are working on.