CMU unveils photo system that can travel back in time

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Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute have developed computer browser technology to create the GigaPan Time Machine.

The next-generation GigaPan photographic technology allows viewers to zoom into large, panoramic photographs to see fine detail, but now it also allows the viewer to watch the full picture or details within it back and forth through time.

One GigaPan Time Machine video, for example, shows a garden from the time seeds are planted until full bloom. The viewer can watch the entire garden grow or focus on individual plants to see caterpillars and stink bugs eating particular leaves or stems.

Photos in the Time Machine videos are taken in 15-minute intervals, each with millions and even billions of pixels of resolution, which allows zoom-ins deep into the photo to see detail and to go back to how things started.

The Time Machine technology uses the GigaPan camera, operated by a robotic platform and processed by CMU computers, to show beehives being developed; roads, buildings or bridges being constructed; or festivals or protests as they unfold.

"With GigaPan Time Machine, you can simultaneously explore space and time at extremely high resolutions," said Illah Nourbakhsh, associate professor of robotics and head of the CREATE Lab. "Science has always been about narrowing your point of view -- seeing a particular experiment or observation that you think might provide insight. But this system enables what we call exhaustive science, capturing huge amounts of data that can be explored in amazing ways."

In coming years, Mr. Nourbakhsh, and Randy Sargent, CMU senior systems scientist, anticipate upgrades so the high-resolution photographs, stitched together into a vast panorama, can be taken each minute, second or even fraction of a second to produce videos allowing exploration of everything from sporting events to volcanic eruptions.

Along with announcement of the technological breakthrough today, CMU also said the public can go to the following link -- -- for details on how to create and share timelapse GigaPan videos.

Time Machine operates only with Google's Chrome or Apple's Safari browsers.

David Templeton: or 412-263-1578.


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