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NASA-Developed Camera System With Explorable Panoramics Releases this Month
Pittsburgh Tribune Review



More than 2,000 people applied for 300 units the company offered this fall in the first public distribution of Gigapan.

"We were making preparations for the possibility that no one would want this," LeGrand said. He has ordered supplies to make 1,000 more, which will be available in spring and will retail for about $350.

"We're making an effort to keep it close to cost," LeGrand said. "We want it to be available to regular folks."

NASA is among the early users of Gigapan and has taken it around the United States and Canada to explore possible sites to test rovers, said Maria Bualat, deputy group lead for NASA Ames Research Center's Intelligent Robotics group.

"You could bring a regular camera and take photographs, but this allows you to take high resolution images of candidate sites and gives you a nice feel for how immersive the site will be," Bualat said. "We can use it to look for, say, lunar analogues or Mars analogues, depending on the test we're running."

Leetsdale native Richard Palmer, who lives in Honolulu, is working on a project with botanists at the University of Hawaii to take Gigapan shots of pressed plants at the university, live plants and panoramas of their habitat.

"We're documenting these plants before they disappear," Palmer said.

In Norway, photographer John Myrstad has taken Gigapan images ranging from the Art Nouveau architecture of Aalesund to melting glaciers. He is developing a way to use Gigapans in architectural exhibitions, since one image can show the architectural character of a city and details such as gables or keystones, and he is introducing the technology to scientists to research the effect of climate change on glaciers with time-lapse photography.

"With the Gigapan image, there is so much detail," Myrstad said. "You might capture all the information you need and then go back later and look at the details. So a scientist might be able to gather information without ... going on a field trip."

Although Gigapans are useful for scientific purposes, they also enable users to take fun photographs. In one image, eight college students took advantage of the time it takes the Gigapan motor to move through a scene. They moved with the camera. Instead of eight students, almost 100 appear to be in the panorama.

Rich Gibson, a computer programmer in Sebastopol, Calif., brought the camera system while visiting family in Oregon and took Gigapan images at Yoncalla Pioneer Cemetery, where some of his ancestors are buried. His image shows a small plot shaded by towering pine trees and sunken headstones. Zooming in reveals names and dates on the lichen-covered grave markers.

"The kind of thing I'm fiddling with is coming up with other ways to present these so there's a narrative, so that the stories are captured," said Gibson, who has posted almost 100 Gigapans, more than any other user. "It's incredible how powerful a simple story is at sucking us in."

The Pennsylvania Tourism Office and the National Civil War Museum are using multiple Gigapan images to tell the story of Pennsylvania's role in the Civil War and attract tourists.

Gigapan photos have been taken of battlegrounds, historic houses, cities and museum exhibits for the Pennsylvania Civil War Trails project, whose partners include Carnegie Mellon, Google and marketing agency Ripple Effects Interactive.

"This could change the way people browse for travel destinations," said Laura Tomokiyo, the Carnegie Mellon project scientist overseeing the Civil War project. "Instead of looking something up in a book, they'd be able to go to Google Earth and see and explore it on their computer."


   







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