Microsoft’s 20-Gigapixel Seattle Panorama is Packed Full of Fun Artistic Surprises


There’s no rule against having a little fun while proving a technological point, even if you’re Microsoft.

So when the software giant’s research arm wanted to flex some image-editing muscle by creating a 20-gigapixel panorama of Seattle, they decided to bring local artists into the picture (literally) and encourage them to do creative stuff while the camera was clicking away.

Scan the “Gigapixel ArtZoom” image carefully, and you can find: A guy proposing to his beloved, indie pop band Future Fridays posing as robots, a spaceship model that looks like a leaf blower gone rogue, a giant “Error 404″ message, a woman in a long purple dress walking down the sidewalk with a candelabra and more!

We don’t want to ruin the treasure hunt aspect for you, though, so do your own pan and zoom work and let us know what you find.

ScreenHunter_308 Jan. 29 13.14

ScreenHunter_307 Jan. 29 13.13

The image was shot from a rooftop near the Space Needle and constructed from 2,368 22-megapixel images stitched together with Microsoft Research’s free Image Composite Editor. But the project isn’t just about demonstrating an impressive Microsoft app; It’s about celebrating the regional art scene by giving creative people a unique way to show their stuff.

“The fun in a panorama comes from panning around, zooming in, and discovering things, so when you do see someone, you wonder what they’re doing.” project director Michael Cohen told Fast Company. “So for Gigapixel ArtZoom, we decided to take this beautiful cityscape of Seattle and fill it with people to find: the artists, acrobats, and performers who give this city such a vibrant life.”

(via Fast Company via Laughing Squid)

  • Don

    Interesting they used Microsoft ICE to do such a huge stitch. I guess it is fairly robust. That’s Szeliski’s code I think, and he did (literally) write he book on computer vision. Nice work.

  • Thren3019

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  • Rob Elliott

    significantly less nudity then I expected…

    these are always a little creepy to me… still a neat look at a neat city.

  • joe

    If you’re looking for nudity online, there might be easier ways to find it than scanning this picture. Just saying …

  • Miami_KIT

    This can’t be real, I did not find any Starbuck’s in the picture.

  • Jeremy Madore

    Unfortunately, this is (in part) photo manipulation. Proof: at the very bottom of the image, below the space needle (beside the sign for the Seattle Center) Ezra Dickinson poses in a Dinosaur-head costume. Notice how his shadow falls the the left while all the others fall to the right.

    Really wish they were able to handle the logistics of doing this properly. They went this far – and the outcome is enjoyable – just wish they went a little further and shot it all properly in camera.

  • moor


  • BDWT

    It’s clearly designed by Microsoft. Using Google Chrome, none of the panels loaded properly, most of them were stitched improperly with thick black bars between each panel and when I refreshed the page after 5 mins of browsing, all the buttons ceased working.

  • Bryan

    Of course it’s photo manipulation, though. It’s an image processing challenge, just as much as a photography challenge. “in camera” doesn’t mean what it used to.

  • PJ Fry

    Wait a second… This wasn’t in-camera?! How dare they try to fool us like that?!

  • Jeremy Madore

    Oh, that’s good. “In camera” not meaning what it used to…
    “Sorry I cheated on you, honey – the accepted definition of being faithful has changed”.

    My point here (which was obviously overlooked) is that, with slightly better planning, this could have been an entirely in-camera project (outside of the stitch) and it fell short of that. It’s impressive nonetheless, but could have been taken further.

  • Rob Elliott

    I was kidding. :P

  • Rob Elliott

    Wait that means the LEGO building isn’t really there? And the space ship thing was added in post… way to kill my dreams man.. way to kill my dreams.

  • Randy

    Being that it is photos stitched together, it would have been a massive undertaking to assure that all shadows made sense…since I doubt you can fire off 2368 images in a couple of minutes!!!!

  • 3ric15

    I used it before I got Photoshop (and before CS2 PS was legally downloadable). It is incredibly easy to use, yet it stitches pictures together (IMO) better than PS can, believe it or not.

  • 3ric15

    I found this :D

  • Rob Elliott

    you are right… oh my… well… any that aren’t blocked by buildings, are blocked by trees… if this was taken in winter you’d be able to see at least one. That is remarkable, thanks for pointing it out.

  • Don

    There are two 180-degree images with a thin gray bar separating them. That’s not a malfunction in Chrome. Try using another browser, and you should still see it.