Don't miss checking out Photosynth, an idea in Microsoft's Live Labs. You need to download a small app first to work with IE or Firefox.
But it makes me wonder: If you could zoom in to a Coca-Cola logo on a T-shirt, in a vendor's display rack, in the vast pigeon-filled piazza of St. Mark's in Venice (you must sign into Photosynth for this), imagine what this could do elsewhere. Not just for brands (though brand managers would sure like that!) but for organizations trying to create experiences out of the collage of images that could be filed with details.
1. Obvious one: Tourism marketing for travel agents, countries, states and cities. Get people to submit holiday photos, and turn them into citizen photo-journalists.
2. Art galleries: Deploy street teams with digital cameras to cover a topic or art form and mash-up their work into composite experience.
3. Colleges: Stitch together thousands of images out there of campuses, schools, dorms, pubs and places of interest now in the hands of alumni. Create a multi-perspective virtual tour that belongs to them, literally.
4. Mega-events: Political conventions, the Olympics, Street marches and other crowd-magnets. Wouldn't it be a great way preserve a historical record right down to the wording on the buttons, street signs and posters? Boggles the mind to think what Woodstock would have looked like with this kind of coverage.
This is the outer edge of social media.
There's a similar use of 3D modeling and digital images in Google's StreetView, but it doesn't involve citizens' input. We don't know how Microsoft will do with Photosynth. But the concept is definitely exciting.