A new free Web tool will turn your trip photos into 3-D models

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Today, Microsoft officially launches Photosynth, a free software that lets you stitch photos into a 3-D tour.

A step beyond slide shows, the software analyzes your images for similarities and then pieces them together into 3-D tours. The program reconstructs places such as cathedrals, beaches, and mountains.

The TV show CSI used the technology as part of the plot of an episode that aired about a year ago, as shown in this YouTube clip:

First, you download the software for free. [One catch: It won't work on Macs.] Next, you load up your photos. The computer works its magic and finds the patterns, building a 3-D model. Then, using your computer’s arrow keys, you can navigate your "synth" by looking up or down, zooming in or out, and panning from left to right. The result is that you can relive your trips, and people can virtually walk in your shoes. You can also tag and embed your “synth” into blogs and social networking sites such as Facebook or my Budget Travel.

The program works best with about 35 digital images, although you can use as few as 20 images or as many as 300 images. The idea is to overlap the photos so you’ll want to take both close-ups and panoramic shots.

To download the free program and check out other travelers’ synths, go to photosynth.net. To see a video of how the feature works for average consumers, click here:

[This post has been republished at 10:20 a.m. to add a missing word, "synth", in the fourth paragraph. The editor regrets the error.]

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