Unable to ignore the ubiquitousness of Apple’s touch devices, Microsoft has released its first app, a tech-demo of Seadragon.
For those unfamiliar with the project, Seadragon is one of a few applications being developed under Microsoft’s Live Lab division. This one in particular provides “seamless browsing of vast quantities of visual information […] regardless of the amount of data.” With the app you are able to quickly breeze through thousands of giga-pixel images and zoom in multiple times to view them in their full resolution splendor.
Seadragon comes with access to a collection of images which among them include satellite images of Mars and the Spitzer’s Galaxy, documents from the Library of Congress, and a couple of different map views of the world. You can also add images from RSS feeds, any Deep Zoom content, and from Photosynth users (Photosynth being another Live Lab project that “[a]utomatically reconstructs a three-dimensional space from a collection of photos of a place or an object”). You can set it up to use your photos as well, but they have to be uploaded to Photosynth which is only in testing for the Mac and requires Microsoft’s Flash-variant Silverlight, which means non-Intel based Mac users are left out.
Taken for what it is, a technical demo, Seadragon is a rather impressive technology. Pinching and stretching your way around images only to see how detailed they really are has a definite wow factor and just one more thing to use when showing off why the iPhone stands apart from everything else in the market. However, it is admittedly a bit odd that the developers didn’t allow you to browse the pictures on your camera roll directly, as well as shipped an app that wasn’t complete — the “Browse Photosynth” is broken — but I guess, such is the nature of a demo.
The developers claim that there is more “cool stuff” to come, though not specifically for the iPhone/iPod touch. Regardless, based on this app alone, that claim doesn’t, at all, seem far fetched and I’d gladly welcome more Apple friendly offerings from Microsoft’s Live Labs.