A few years ago, Microsoft Research’s Computation Photography Group launched its free Image Composite Editor (ICE), a tool for stitching together panorama photos and creating gigapixel images. That turned out to be a surprise hit among photographers, and Microsoft says that even now, about 1,200 people still download the application every day. With the launch of ICE 2.0 today, the group is taking a major step forward, and if you’re into this kind of photography, it’s definitely worth checking out.
The highlight of the updated Windows-only application is Image Autocomplete. Chances are that your images don’t line up perfectly when you stitch them together, so you end up with some rather ugly empty areas around the edges. With autocomplete, the software identifies patterns in the image and then uses that knowledge to fill in the gaps. That’s quite similar to what Adobe’s Photoshop does with content-aware fill, but here, the tool is obviously quite a bit more specialized.
In my tests, the autocomplete worked pretty well. Unsurprisingly, really complex patterns will throw it off, but even then, the result is passable enough that it takes a closer look or two before you notice that something is wrong with the image. Here is what that looks like:
The tool also now supports video, so you can take a sweep and turn it into a single large panorama. The cool feature here is that you can select highlights from different parts of the video and then have them appear in the panorama.
If you want to get really creative, you can now also select between different new projections, including 360-degree panoramas. Once you’re done, you can save your image locally, but you can also upload it to Microsoft’s Photosynth site or save it as a Deep Zoom image (both of which then rely on Microsoft Silverlight to show your images in a browser).