This excerpt from a NASA News bulletin explains:
For the first time, people around the world can view hundreds of high resolution photographs of Endeavour, Launch Pad 39A, and the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy in a unique 3-D viewer. NASA and Microsoft's Live Labs team developed the online experience using hundreds of photographs and a photo imaging technology called Photosynth. Using a click-and-drag interface, viewers can zoom in to see intimate details of the shuttle booster rockets or zoom out for a more global view of the launch facility. The software uses photographs from standard digital cameras to construct a 3-D view that can be navigated and explored online. The NASA images can be viewed at Microsoft's Live Labs at:
"This collaboration with Microsoft gives the public a new way to explore and participate in America's space program," said William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for Space Operations, Washington. "We're also looking into using this new technology to support future missions."
"With Photosynth, we take pictures of an environment and knit them together into an experience that people can move through like a 3-D video game," said Microsoft Live Labs Architect Blaise Aguera y Arcas. "NASA provided us with some outstanding images, and the result is an experience that will wow anyone wanting to get a closer look at NASA's missions."
The software is still "pre-beta" but appears to work well enough under XP Pro with the Firefox browser. Even if it isn't the way many of us will choose to take or display our own photographs it is another tool in the multimedia arsenal.
P.S. As I write Endeavour is due to launch on Wednesday, Aug. 8, at 6:36 p.m. EDT