National Geographic has a fun new feature called the Infinite Photograph that takes over 300,000 photos collected from its archives and submitted by users, and turns them into a giant photo mosaic. It lets you zoom in infinitely, making your way deeper into each photo as it breaks down into smaller photos of various colors.
The service is the latest effort to promote the company's MyShot program, which showcases user-uploaded photographs that appear both online and in the monthly publication.
Early Thursday I spoke with Rob Covey, who is National Geographic's senior vice president of content and design, about the project that he says is just the beginning of something much larger. "This is Version 1.0 of it. We've got a lot more work to do," he said. Covey said while this iteration is focused on a general selection of photos of Earth, future versions will break down into verticals like water, trees, and animals.
However, before it hits that point, Covey says there's some tweaking to be done in the back end, which was written entirely in-house and by one developer. As of right now, the application takes about a minute and a half to load in your browser--maybe a bit too long for some to wait. Future iterations will display higher quality pictures, and stream in faster from the get-go.
What's interesting here is that National Geographic is using the same editorial vetting for user-submitted photos as it does for its magazine, which means all of the shots you see are gorgeous. It's also harder to get your shot in, since it goes through a strict editorial review process. Covey says that there have been some 50,000 user-submitted images that have been contributed, and that the more they get into the system, the more advanced the application can get with its color sampling.
For those who want to get a similar experience with their own photos there's the Image Mosaic Generator, which will create a mosaic out of uploaded photos using shots from Flickr. However, it does not let you zoom in to see the full quality version of each shot, or have a neat Flash-based browser like National Geographic does.