The proposition: You and a bunch of strangers are live streaming mobile-phone video of some event or disaster. A server stitches it all together and instantaneously publishes a rich, immediate patchwork of the action.
I love this system, but not necessarily for the same reasons that its developers at Microsoft Research do. I want to see something like this on YouTube, for instance. How bonerfied would Wolf Blitzer have been if he could have taken all the YouTube video of Obama's inauguration and turned it into a massive patchwork of super hi-def action? I mean, this thing makes the GigaPan look like something Thomas Edison invented in his spare time.
But Ayman Kaheel, a development manager at Microsoft's Innovation Center in Cairo, said he really wanted it to be live, and not for pre-recorded video, mostly because it's a greater challenge, and making it work live ultimately means that the other forms of it would work too. Kaheel says that the stitching service could be public or private, so in addition to plane crashes and inaugurations, this thing could make sense for weddings and stuff, if enough guests feel like livecasting.
Like most Microsoft Research projects, this one requires certain things that aren't yet here, but are coming soon. In order for all that live video to sync up when the system is stitching it together, each piece of video from each phone requires a timecode, and of course all the timecodes on all the mobiles sending video have to be totally in sync. (Surprisingly, Kaheel says the bandwidth requirements are already met by most networks, needing only 200Kbps to be effective.)
I see this as a multifaceted glimpse at social video's future: Whether it's live or archived, stitching may prove to be a great way to turn all the crappy 240x320 video into a high-def tapestry worth watching.
Microsoft's TechFest is an annual jamboree of innovation and gadgetry from Microsoft Research, which means that while none of it is coming out as is in products in the near future, it's essentially what product development people use to add cool stuff to their actual releases.