Google may have grown increasingly corporate over the years, but I love the fact that it still sets out to do cool things just because it can. Working with the University of Washington, the team found a way to create fully automated timelapse photos of both landscapes and cityscapes using photos pulled in from popular photo-sharing sites like Yahoo’s Flickr and its own Picasa.
First, we cluster 86 million photos into landmarks and popular viewpoints. Then, we sort the photos by date and warp each photo onto a common viewpoint. Finally, we stabilize the appearance of the sequence to compensate for lighting effects and minimize flicker.
The team says that the results are not just fun to watch, but also serve a useful purpose …
The photos can illustrate in an easy to grasp way changes happening in the world, including environmental impact. One of the time-lapse videos, for example, shows the retreat of the Briksdalsbreen Glacier in Norway (shown in the video below). Google took a similar approach with satellite imagery back in 2013, using animated GIFs.
All photos used have been posted by users with a Creative Commons license, and only geotagged photos are used, so the software can locate them. So far the system has generated more than 10,000 time-lapses across almost 3,000 landmarks.
The video below describes the approach taken, while the academic paper provides more information.