It’s a splendid view, a panorama of the Seattle skyline taken atop a hill in Kerry Park northwest of the city center. Framed by trees in the foreground, downtown spreads out before you. To the right, a ferry negotiates Elliott Bay. In the center, the Space Needle juts into a clear, blue sky.
And what’s that between them? Why it’s Mount Rainier, snow-capped and majestic in the 80-mile distance. Now, there’s an image worth a closer look.
With HD View, a closer look is just a scroll wheel away.
In this view of downtown Seattle, Mount Rainier towers beckoningly in the distance.
HD View is an image viewer, developed by the Interactive Visual Media Group at Microsoft Research Redmond, that delivers a unique, immersive ability to explore panoramic imagery on the Internet, enabling users to pan back and forth or up and down and to zoom in or out to examine details of interest.
It’s an entrancing, mesmerizing experience, one that promises to revolutionize the use of photography on the Web—and transform the very nature of photography itself. And it’s one available to most broadband users with a normal PC or laptop running a browser atop Windows, simply by installing a browser plug-in when visiting the HD View Web site.
In this Seattle photo, those details of interest include the northwest face of Mount Rainier. With a simple spin of the scroll wheel on a user’s mouse, the mountain races into close-up view, in living blue and white, filling your monitor with glaciers, ice shelves, and crevasses. For many of us, that’s as close a look as we’ll ever get.
“Part of the fascination with really large images,” says Michael Cohen, principal researcher in the Interactive Visual Media Group and one of two drivers of the HD View project, “is that, in a way, they’re not just a photograph, where you look at it and that’s the end of it. When they’re that big, you can really explore them.”
Another panorama of downtown Seattle peers toward the bay from the east, with Interstate 5 curling past. This one also features a skyline, but with a construction crane placed dead center, it’s not the most attractive photo—at first glance. But zoom in and pan around, and wonders begin to unfold.