Double Happiness: Microsoft Integrates Photosynth With Virtual Earth

Microsoft is today announcing the integration of Photosynth, technology that enables you to automatically stitch groups of photos together into one big interactive 3D viewing experience, with its mapping service Virtual Earth. I think that’s really cool, because I’m a big fan of Photosynth and I also happen to think Virtual Earth is vastly superior to – yet immensely less popular than – Google Maps / Earth.

In the video it’s releasing on YouTube for the occasion (embedded below), Microsoft claims ‘hundreds of thousands’ of users have already used Photosynth – which was released to the public back in August 2008 – and uploaded more than 12 million photos in 350,000 synths.

Now it’s taking the next step by using Silverlight technology in order to make it possible for user to port their Photosynths to Virtual Earth, running on Macs and PCs alike (unless you refuse to run Silverlight on any of those, of course). It touts this as a must for tourism agencies (for obvious reasons) but also businesses who want to add a cool visual layer of their stores, outlets and offices. The example it is featuring on the Virtual Earth product site is for a real estate listing, and the result of the synth is stunning as ever.

In addition to the integration, Microsoft announced that the latest release of Photosynth introduces commercial licensing, privacy controls, and one-click highlighting for viewers to easily explore synths.

It’s also worth noting that this integration announcement comes several months after Microsoft started including hyperlinks to hosted photosynths on its Live Maps web application.

I can really see how many tourism agencies and businesses from around the world can benefit from showing off whatever they can show off on a digital version of our planet, but I also see the challenges ahead for Microsoft. After all, the company is going to have to convince not only those organizations but also potential visitors to install and use both Virtual Earth and Silverlight on their computers, and getting the word out that something like Photosynth even exists. So far, these are all examples of services that haven’t exactly seen stellar success and seem to be far away from even edging into mainstream popularity.

Either way, I think the combination is powerful and enticing. What do you think?