Virtual Canon Ascent — Conquering Mount Everest Pixel by Pixel

It’s 60 years to the day that mankind conquered Mount Everest for the first time. THEME marks this auspicious occasion with some high-tech conquest of the planet’s highest mountain. It’s now possible to access Everest from the comfort zone of your own couch. To celebrate the event, Microsoft has teamed up with GlacierWorks in order to share the unique experience of an Everest ascent. It’s an impressive virtual tour, made possible by thousands of mostly Canon photos magically stitched together.

Google Street View meanwhile also grants a view of Mount Everest, but it’s in no way the same user experience as GlacierWorks’ virtual Everest journey. Optimized for multi-touch devices, you can zoom in to the impressive landscape thanks to Internet Explorer’s panoramic viewer.

In fact, the technology used is a showpiece for new Internet standards. Head to Everest Panorama Viewer where Microsoft’s new technology is used for the first time.

According to TheNextWeb it’s like a version of “Google Maps on steroids.” The entire site is based on HTML5 and CSS3 with Microsoft trying something “to be a testament to showcase developers the power of the Web and raise expectations on what can be done online.”

Thousands of photos have been stitched together for this virtual experience. Documentary filmmaker David Breashears who runs the site has spent years trying to photograph each and every spot of Mount Everest. He was already five times on the top of the world’s highest mountain and shares his work, yes, for free with everyone.

The driving force behind GlacierWorks’ project is URC Ventures, a company set out to achieve “real-time digitization of the physical world.”

The Mount Everest images were captured using a set of seven state-of-the-art Canon cameras mounted to the front of a helicopter which flew along the length of the Khumbu Glacier then rose above the Khumbu Icefall and into Everest’s Western Cwm, often called the Valley of Silence, reaching an altitude of 8,500 m or 28,000 ft.

The first set of images has been processed to create a multi-billion-pixel point cloud that was used to create a 3D model fly-through of the Himalayas.

To build the 3D model, URC Ventures utilized proven dense 3D extraction technology converting ordinary 2D imagery into a 3D space, pixel by pixel. The technology developed over the last 10 years by Urban Robotics for specific government applications scales to very large numbers of images and does not require single data capture location points, special cameras or rigorous calibration.

The process is automated and leverages computer vision techniques and sophisticated algorithms to extract and reconstruct the real world pixel by pixel. In fact the technology validates commercial applications for technology historically utilized in a military context.

Here’s another virtual 3D Everest flight by the German Aerospace Center using optical satellite data at a maximum resolution of just half a meter. The video allows the viewer to follow the route taken by 15 mountaineers on an expedition to the summit of Everest:

But for undisturbed peace to discover the top of the world all by yourself, head to GlacierWorks’ virtual Everest, start over Pumori and take it from there.

  • witono

    Cool, now let’s find the yeti.