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timelapseuwThat random photo you took on your last vacation might actually be of use for a cool new project from the University of Washington and Google.

Researchers used millions of publicly-available photos from sites like Flickr and Picasa to create time-lapse videos of tourist landmarks.

Here’s how the researchers describe their “time-lapse mining”:

The approach is completely automated and leverages the vast quantity of photos available online. First, we cluster 86 million photos into landmarks and popular viewpoints. Then, we sort the photos by date and warp each photo onto a common viewpoint. Finally, we stabilize the appearance of the sequence to compensate for lighting effects and minimize flicker. Our resulting time-lapses show diverse changes in the world’s most popular sites, like glaciers shrinking, skyscrapers being constructed, and waterfalls changing course.

The result is pretty impressive:

This research paper offers an in-depth description of the technology and science used to create the videos.

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