Business, Media, Sci-Tech

We’ll always have Prague

By Branko Brkic 21 December 2009

The world’s largest panoramic photograph has just been created, and its subject is the enchanting city of Prague. Just don’t expect it to be anywhere close to the real thing.

Ever wanted to cross the Vltava River along the Charles Bridge on a late autumn evening? How about a short sunset climb up to the Prague Castle with its St. Vitus Cathedral, followed by a rich Czech beer at one of the basement cafes, some of them with a history stretching back to the time of Charles IV himself? The Prague Symphony Orchestra playing Smetana at the Municipal House? The Czech Philharmonic playing Dvorak at the Rudolfinum? Or maybe a walk around Josefov, the old Jewish quarter? You could stop in at the Old Jewish Cemetery where Rabbi Yehudah Loew, the Maharal of Prague, is buried; later you could visit the Altneu Schul where the Maharal’s “Golem” – a soulless being created from mud – is said to lie at rest. The Astronomical Clock on Old Town Square? The Franz Kafka museum? A performance at the Dancing House?

Unfortunately, you can’t really do any of these things with the 18 gigapixel panoramic photo of Prague recently created by 360 Cities, even if it is the largest spherical panorama in the world as of December 2009. At best, if you look hard enough, you may be able to see some of the statues on the Charles Bridge, or the roofs of some of the museums. Which renders ridiculous the claim of Wired magazine that the photo is an “acceptable substitute” to actually visiting this enchanting city.

Still, the hyperbole of tech journos aside, what 360 Cities have done is impressive on its own terms. The photo is 192,000 pixels wide and 96,000 pixels tall, which would make it, when printed, 16 metres tall at regular photographic quality (300dpi). As the company name implies, you can rotate the photo 360 degrees – together with the super-high-resolution zoom function and full control of the up-down axis, you’re essentially free in 3-D space. It’s like Google Street View maps, except with way more clarity.

“The creation of this image represents my previous five years’ obsession with all things panoramic,” Jeffrey Martin, founder and CEO of 360 Cities, says. “If you’re stuck at home over Christmas, feeling humbuggy and don’t feel like hanging out with your family, you can explore Prague instead.”  

So maybe “explore” is a slight misnomer – but you get the picture.

By Kevin Bloom

Read more: 360 Cities, Wired

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