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Mining shared photos to make time-lapse videos

A wheeling Milky Way or dancing aurora borealis inspires awe and broadens perspective when viewed across the chronological scales time-lapse videos afford. The trouble is it takes a lot of time to construct these videos. But in the smartphone age, the power of collected photographs enables a more collaborative method.

Researchers from Google and the University of Washington, US, describe a new approach they call time-lapse mining. Their technical paper will be featured at the Association for Computing Machinery SIGGRAPH 2015 conference.

They began by downloading 86 million photos from community collections, and then clustered them according to landmarks and popular viewpoints. Next, they sorted the distributed images by date and warped them to a common viewpoint. With this technique, they have been able to create over 10,000 time-lapse videos of the most popular places in the world.

These videos ultimately show us our world in a new way. The life of plants becomes apparent; seasonal rhythms emerge. Geological changes previously invisible to the naked eye - shifting sandbars, disappearing lakes, eroding rock faces - come into focus with time-lapse mining.

See for yourself:

Courtesy Ricardo Martin-Brualla, David Gallup, Steven Seitz, the University of Washington, and Google Inc.

--Lance Farrell

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