Do your vacation snapshots of the Midwest annoy you because they don't live up to your high photographic standards? Feel like your pictures of the Grand Canyon don't give you enough of the view? Next vacation, you could lock your elbows, take a few hundred pictures, and tape them together back at the ranch. Or you could enlist the Gigapan robot platform to do all that work for you, leaving you plenty of time to ponder the validity of the sublime in contemporary art photography.
Developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the NASA Ames Intelligent Robot Group, the Gigapan robot platform, with a point-and-shoot digital camera attached, can take up to 300 photos in 10 to 30 minutes. Software will be able to take these individual images and stitch them together resulting in images that are grand in scale and precise in their execution. With an optical zoom in tow, Gigapans (the images share the name with the robot platform) can achieve resolutions as large as 30 billion pixels.
An earlier version of the robot was developed for NASA as a way for the Mars Exploration Rovers to effectively document the Martian landscape. Its success on the red planet led to increased interest in bringing this technology "back to Earth." Currently, plans are in the works to sell the Gigapan for as little as $200. Instructions on how to buy a Gigapan robot or make one yourself will be available on CMU's website as early as March.