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Microsoft unveiled a preview of its third-generation Photosynth photo-stitching application today, showing off new levels of smoothness and resolution that add more realism to the resulting interactive 3D “synths.” The result feels at times more like an interactive video scene than a collection of photos.

Here’s an example of a scene created by the new version of the service.

Ingalls Peak by wideangle on Photosynth

As can probably be expected from photo stitching software, the new Photosynth preview features support for a panoramic shot of a single object (what Microsoft is calling “spin”), as well as a panorama shot outwards from a single point.

Example of a spin synth by wideangle on Photosynth

In addition to inward or outward facing panoramas, the Photosynth preview added a couple of new modes for linear stitching. The Walk mode allows users to string together images they took while walking a path, in a manner similar to Google’s Street View, but without the full 3D panoramas, while Wall mode allows users to get a full look up and down a single long surface.

Fremont Houseboats by MidnightFrog on Photosynth

Those two modes seem particularly interesting, given Microsoft’s new Bing Maps app preview, which highlights both its high-definition 3D imagery as well as the ability to transition from a bird’s-eye view to Microsoft’s Streetside views, a rival to Google Maps’s Street View.

Since Google is currently working to let users add their own panoramas to Street View, Photosynth could be a key part of keeping Bing Maps competitive in the mapping space.

The Photosynth preview is available at photosynth.net/preview. Currently, Microsoft is only gradually adding users to the program on a first-come, first-served basis. Photosynth users will also still have access to the company’s existing panorama stitching functionality before getting access to new features.

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