Microsoft Malta has launched a national competition to reward creative and innovative class projects using a free internet application, called Photosynth that is ideal to capture national Maltese heritage sites. This application is available at http://photosynth.net .

Microsoft's Photosynth is an easy-to-download and use software that enables teachers and students to create an immersive 3-D environment of a photographed site or object. It also allows users to map their creation and accompany the photography artefact with notes. This software lends itself comfortably to the delivery of curriculum objectives since it is an alternative way of capturing and going over the detail of a photographed site or object.

The application lets you take a bunch of photos of the same scene or object and automatically stitch them all together into one big interactive 3-D viewing experience that you can share with anyone on the web.

Photosynth is a potent mixture of two independent breakthroughs: the ability to reconstruct the scene or object from a bunch of photographs, and the technology to bring that experience to virtually anyone over the internet.

Using techniques from the field of computer vision, it examines images for similarities to each other and uses that information to estimate the shape of the subject and the vantage point each photo was taken from. With this information, the space is recreated and used as a canvas to display and navigate through the photos.

Searching for synths is easy - once you enter this utility's website, hit the "Explore" button to search for whatever you have in mind. "Map Explore" is useful, if for example, you want to find synths created in Malta. All you have to do is zoom in and click on the leaf-like icons. The website already has several synths with photos from Malta.

Each synth is accompanied with important information one should not overlook - number of photos and synthy. The higher percentage the synthy is, the smoother the synth will display.

Creating your own synth is surprisingly easy. First of all you have to take photos for your project. Take as many as possible from different angles - it is also important to overlap (Microsoft suggest that there should be at least 75 per cent overlapping for the best results).

Different photo cameras taking photos of varying resolutions on different days can be used to create a synth. Photos have to be uploaded and process may take hours, depending on the resolution and number of photos. Users need to use a Microsoft Live ID to upload and create synths. Synths can be geotagged and useful information for viewers can be added.

This application and the competition are supported by the Department of Education because this technology can be easily used in the delivery of various curriculum objectives in both Primary and Secondary schools.

The deadline for submission of the class projects is March 22.

The e-Learning Centre in the Department of Education and Microsoft Malta will be supporting interested teachers in the creation of their project.

Full details on the local competition and Photosynth are available at http://digimalta.com .