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Posted on June 6th, 2008 by Barry Collins

Deep Zoom: proof that Microsoft is still capable of amazing technology

I can’t remember the last time a Microsoft technology demo knocked my socks off.  But yesterday, during a presentation for this year’s Imagine Cup, Microsoft’s Mark Taylor demonstrated the company’s Deep Zoom technology to appreciative gasps of admiration from the computing students present. And one demo-weary journalist.

Taylor started with a web browser displaying a rather grainy photo of Paul McCartney’s signature:

Paul McCartney signature

So far so what? But then he zoomed out of the photo to reveal that the signature was actually a tiny detail on the foot of a Beatles figuerine:

Beatles models

And then he zoomed out once more to reveal the figuerines were actually a tiny detail in a photo of the Hrd Rock Cafe (they’re the small blue figures below the neon sign, between the suits):

Hard Rock cafe

Here’s where it started to get really good. The Hard Rock Cafe pic was just one tile of a 4×4 collage that formed a postage stamp:

Hard Rock stamp

And that stamp appeared in the corner of a letter, handwritten by Paul McCartney to Buddy Dresner, The Beatles’ bodyguard:

Beatles letter

And just for good measure, we could zoom out one final time and read the handwritten letter penned by Macca himself, alongside the envelope:

McCartney letter

All of this was done with breathtaking smoothness from a web browser, using a beta version of Microsoft’s Silverlight 2 technology. It’s clearly applying a little artistic licence – the stamp obviously wasn’t on the original letter – but it’s an utterly captivating way of presenting memorabilia that would otherwise have been presented as a dull series of Jpegs.

Go and try the demo for yourself at the Hard Rock Memorabilia site. If you’re like me and a bunch of very smart students, you can’t fail to be impressed.

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66 Responses to “ Deep Zoom: proof that Microsoft is still capable of amazing technology ”

  1. Jim Says:
    June 6th, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    Until Microsoft creates web technology that allows users with operating systems other than Windows to use it, Microsoft will fail. Gone are the days of the unconquered Microsoft Monopoly. Now that people have discovered alternatives to Windows that are more secure, work better, are cheaper, or all of the above, Microsoft cannot get its greedy monopoly back.

    This technology would probably be cool if it worked with my Linux box.

  2. My Moniker Says:
    June 6th, 2008 at 9:31 pm

    Bull. They have dominated and understand that proprietary is the new open. Is SWF open? Why then does Adobe tout it over SVG? Because they won it. Wake up and smell the starbucks. because it is better than Juan Valdez.

  3. John C. Randolph Says:
    June 6th, 2008 at 9:31 pm


    You really need to get out more. This kind of thing is a parlor trick that CAD developers have been doing since the mid 1980’s.


  4. Terry Says:
    June 6th, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    It crashes the current Safari:

    Thread 0 Crashed (i386):
    >#0 0×1921690f CUpdateChecker::ManifestCheckResponse(IPALDownloadResponse*, long) + 547
    #1 0×19614a68 CUpdateChecker::CUpCheckResponseCallback::GotResponse(IPALDownloadResponse*, long) + 72
    #2 0×1920a7b2 PluginObject::URLNotify(char const*, short, void*) + 428
    #3 0×921603d3 -[WebBaseNetscapePluginStream _destroyStream] + 755

    Also, for Flash, there is Gnash, so I suppose the GPL nuts can be happy, although it’s not yet a complete implementation, so that’s no recommendation for it over SilverLight (except Flash doesn’t crash Safari).

  5. K Huie Says:
    June 6th, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    This “technology” trick has been used in Hollywood movies for decades. It would be a “WOW!” if it worked for all arbitrary locations on photos (for zoom in AND zoom out), but stitching together particular successive “close-ups” is no real feat. Movies do this all of the time with live action, not stills. If you are impressed with this, then can I sell you the source-code for a “Hello World! program that uses actual letters in a WINDOW to write out “Hello World”? Runs under Windows and uses colors and a close button and …

    YAWN. Wake me when M$ does something that wasn’t done before (and done better)

  6. Chris Alexander Says:
    June 6th, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    I was there, and that demo was insanely cool. I haven’t seen anything like that for a long time. I can only think, what are the bandwidth costs of an application like that going to be!

    I was live blogging at the event here –

  7. Nick Says:
    June 6th, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    Actually since it’s based on Silverlight, you should be able to run it on your Linux box in the near future. Microsoft has teamed up with Novell to create a Silverlight implementation for Linux :

    “Microsoft will be delivering Silverlight Media Codecs for Linux, and Novell will be building a 100% compatible Silverlight runtime implementation called “Moonlight”.

    Moonlight will run on all Linux distributions, and support FireFox, Konqueror, and Opera browsers. ”

    Here’s a link to the project site, just in case you’re interested:

    It looks like Microsoft has finally realized they need to learn to play nice with Linux.

  8. Will Says:
    June 6th, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    It crashed Firefox 3 (on mac). So that is browser 2 (as someone above posted Safari already).

  9. Cak Says:
    June 6th, 2008 at 9:44 pm


    CAD and other systems might have had this but it definitely did not run as a browser plug-in. I think people should appreciate MS when it did something cool…

    cheer up,

  10. K Huie Says:
    June 6th, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    Wasn’t “insanely (anything)” copyrighted by Apple in the Mid-80’s? So last century…

  11. Anonymous Coward Says:
    June 6th, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    what a breathtaking new technique… lol
    but hey, it’s microsoft, so i guess it’s “wow” for the ms folks

  12. rado Says:
    June 6th, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    Microsoft claims Silverlight is crossbrowser & crossplatform, but they released it only for IE(Win), Firefox(Win+Mac) and Safari(Mac). I tested it on FF 2 and 3 and IE. But it is realy sad, that is it not for Linux.

  13. gijs Says:
    June 6th, 2008 at 9:50 pm

    Does anybody remember “Powers of 10″? Where a picture of a hand would eventually zoom out into the entire universe and then back in on quarks? That was done 31 years ago.

    Nice to see that Microsoft still pushes forward on the cutting edge of innovation.

  14. Nate Says:
    June 6th, 2008 at 9:53 pm

    Google maps and Windows Live Local already do this.

  15. phpguru Says:
    June 6th, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    Will, keep in mind that Firefox 3 is still a Release Candidate (not finished testing/debugging), hence not released to general public. Most people are still using the latest version of Firefox 2. I would expect some things to break in Firefox 3, as does certain components of Gmail’s chat interface. It works just fine in Firefox 2.

  16. psi Says:
    June 6th, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    I fail to be impressed, I must not be a clever student. But seriously, there are way way way more impressive stuff being done in SWF and even JS (physics engines/game engines/etc). Really, what is the novelty here? This has been done so many times already.

  17. joe blow Says:
    June 6th, 2008 at 10:09 pm

    Another evil attempt by microsoft to trick users into downloading silverlight into their computers, by the way, if you have linux or don’t want to install silverlight , then just try a zoomquilt at

  18. Chris Says:
    June 6th, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    This article is quite misleading in that it says the stamp was on a letter that McCartney wrote. While it appears on the letter in this gallery it was not originally there. It is an image that was placed there after the fact. The letter was sent in 1964, 7 years before Hard Rock was founded.

  19. Says:
    June 6th, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    Impresionante demo de Deep Zoom de Microsoft…

    [Vía Slashdot]. Silverlight 2 es una plataforma de ejecucion de aplicaciones multimedia para internet que está desarrollando Microsoft. Entre sus características está el Deep Zoom, una impresionante interfaz para hacer zooms en imágenes de alta re…

  20. Diego Filloy Says:
    June 6th, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    No actual zoom there. What was the impressive part of it?

  21. phatsphere Says:
    June 6th, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    wow, this is wow in the opposite direction. this has nothing to do with silverlight or with a new technology. its trick is to pre-render all images at different resolutions and just lookup those of a suiteable resolution. therefore, no matter how far you zoom, you always have the same complexity of pixels when mapping the rendered part to the virtual screen. just add some animation curves adopted from real biological moves and it looks great, too ;)

  22. Kris Says:
    June 6th, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    Wow, some of you can’t see the forest through the trees. It’s not about Microsoft vs. Linux, or what browser this works well on or any of that. This technology allows you to take images (which are obviously extremely high quality) and navigate through them remotely just as fast as if they were on Picassa on your local PC. This example isn’t even that great – have a look at Photosynth ( to get a real “picture” of where they are headed – you can literally create and navigate through a 3-D scene using a bunch of low res images that aren’t necessarily even taken by the same photographer or on the same camera. I’m no M$ lover, but this stuff is definitely cool.

  23. tc Says:
    June 6th, 2008 at 11:12 pm

    This technology apparently allows you to crash your browser. It’s hard to see the forest or the trees when you’re looking at a stack trace. I can’t wait to get this alleged Microsoft Crashing Plugin in 3-D!

  24. Dinesh Says:
    June 6th, 2008 at 11:37 pm

    This is defintiely cool.

    Go to for education information.

  25. Robert Lange Says:
    June 6th, 2008 at 11:44 pm

    Did the demo mention Jef Raskin? He did this years ago.

    I wonder if MS is planning to patent their “new” invention?

  26. Jerry Says:
    June 6th, 2008 at 11:54 pm

    @Jim: Where do you get your info? Silverlights works on my Mac, albeit not very stable, but still: it’s not Windows-only.

    @”My Moniker”: Adobe is opening up the SWF format: It will be interesting to see how this develops.

  27. LD2K Says:
    June 6th, 2008 at 11:55 pm

    Give it a rest although the concept has been don before the implementation and possibly the ease of development has never been done. Remember sometimes innovation means taking some that has been done before and doing it in knew ways. Quite frankly its still pretty cool regardless of that fact. Also keep in mind that although some of you might not find it impressive, the average visitor to the Hard Rock site could probably careless as to how it was implemented.

  28. super4pi Says:
    June 6th, 2008 at 11:59 pm

    Jim, you’re a moron. Taking 1 second to Google silverlight and linux would tell you that there is already a well underway for compatibility on Linux.

  29. torspo Says:
    June 7th, 2008 at 12:08 am

    Anyone remember this?

  30. dbare Says:
    June 7th, 2008 at 1:37 am

    Some of you kids are here are pretty fucking dense. Seriously, let’s take a moment here to just point and laugh at the guy who linked to the zoom quilt. Your mother should’ve had an abortion, then traveled back in time to make sure her mothered had an abortion.

    The whole point is that it DOES let you zoom in to arbitrary locations to nearly arbitrary zoom depths. This is an entirely different technology than prerendered shots made to flow smoothly.

    Check out this link for more information:

  31. puxels Says:
    June 7th, 2008 at 2:28 am

    And this looks just like the MrSID format – the abliity to smoothly zoom way into a huge image without having to download more than what you are interested in. And THAT format was being delivered to browsers in an easy-to-use manner 6-7 YEARS ago.

    I think they’re a bit late to be calling this an “innovation”…

  32. MS Fan Says:
    June 7th, 2008 at 2:38 am

    I’m optimistic about this technology. Why? Because maybe now the clever engineers that made this work can figure out how to fix Internet Explorer. They can start with CSS and PNG.

  33. Why make it web based? Says:
    June 7th, 2008 at 3:18 am

    Hm. Doesn’t work on my browser. Surprise, surprise.

  34. Steve Says:
    June 7th, 2008 at 5:51 am

    This is amazing technology.

    Oh, and my browser didn’t crash. Folks, perhaps consider using a non-sucky browser/platform that doesn’t crash on arbitrary web pages.

  35. Shawn Says:
    June 7th, 2008 at 7:09 am

    Eh, not really willing to enable Silverlight to view a photo.

  36. QJH Says:
    June 7th, 2008 at 7:31 am

    Wow. Amazing technology. Like and graphics designer out there had no idea what is mipmapping. And like no one out there heard of Google Earth.

  37. Retep Says:
    June 7th, 2008 at 8:44 am

    This sounds suspiciously like a pet project that the late Jef Raskin was working on before he died. He even had e zoomable page online somewhere. It had pictures with more content in pictures and content with more content within. With rotation, zooming in and out, all kinds of layers of information where instantly accessible . If the online recreation of an age old and clearly not original effect done by the socalled biggest software firm out there is considered a marvel of amazing technology the IT sector is in more trouble then I first feared.

  38. Web 2.0 Announcer Says:
    June 7th, 2008 at 9:30 am

    Deep Zoom: proof that Microsoft is still capable of amazing technology | PC Pro blog…


  39. Little Green Says:
    June 7th, 2008 at 10:39 am

    So what?

    I don’t understand why this is so… new technology… so breath taking
    Google Earth, Mandelbrot fractals, 5 GigaPixel pictures project… this technology just reuse old stuff and tell us that with Silverthing you will be able to use this wonderful technology…

    In Java, Javascript, flash, … you can do that too.

    So, what…?

    Because it’s Microsoft? I really don’t see the point to that, except for newby for didn’t see anything else…

  40. Johno Says:
    June 7th, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    Hmmm, linux wankers have hijacked this article; it must have been linked from slashdot.

  41. face Says:
    June 7th, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    Not anything that couldn’t be done in Javascript…….lol…..

  42. Curt Says:
    June 7th, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    Quoting an earlier post here:

    “The whole point is that it DOES let you zoom in to arbitrary locations to nearly arbitrary zoom depths. This is an entirely different technology than prerendered shots made to flow smoothly.

    Check out this link for more information:

    Quoting the top post from above URL:

    “In the video, it was demonstrated how pictorial content was successfully semantically linked to other pictorial content. Other types of content can be semantically linked in similar fashion; imagine medical applications such as merging data from actual photos, cat scans and tests of a person onto existing databases for diagnosis purposes.
    The same can occur with the mapping of space, of the ocean bed, of weather systems… also imagine merging data from libraries and research with that of pictorial data from the physical world.”

    Just in case anyone else misses the point ;)

  43. ben Says:
    June 7th, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    pcpro is a little behind don’t you think. MS did not create this it was called Photosynth then bought by MS and called Sea Dragon and now MS marketing has just put a new name on it. I’d suggest that you guys keep up a little better if you want your readers to take you seriously

  44. richard joseph Says:
    June 7th, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    i made the same thing last year on my iPhone. so what?

  45. Bill Says:
    June 7th, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    The title is inaccurate (”Microsoft is still capable of amazing technology”). They bought the project in February, Seadragon Software, someone else that actually was capable of amazing technology.

  46. Max Says:
    June 7th, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    There is nothing better than HTML and JPG. Do not fix what is not broken.

  47. Mike Says:
    June 7th, 2008 at 11:45 pm

    Jef Raskin’s work on zoomable interfaces isn’t original.

    Zoomable User Interfaces have been knocking around in interface research for years. One of the earliest implementations of zoomable interfaces occurred in MIT in 1976 as part of the Spatial Data Management System. They called them multiscalar interfaces.

  48. Goda Says:
    June 8th, 2008 at 3:48 am

    im pretty sure that microsoft didn’t invent this. they bought the group that was developing it. microsoft did little work here.

  49. hwertz Says:
    June 8th, 2008 at 4:48 am

    I saw an online video demo of this quite a while ago, and it looked cool. But…
    a) Moonlight is vaporware at this point, I have seen a few screenshots on the site and that’s about it. Silverlight is very non-portable, just supporting a bare handful of browsers on a very few platforms compared to flash, javascript, java, etc. Microsoft is I think trying to use this to leverage Windows but instead I think it’ll umm.. de-leverage Silverlight.
    b) I don’t have a point B. But, really, they should just suck it up and use flash or Javascript, they’re already in common use.
    c) @My Moniker Says: Yes swf is open. First, Adobe released full swf specifications. Second, Adobe has released flash plugin for many platforms, not just 1 version of Windows and 1 version of OSX like Silverlight. Thirdly, there’s 3rd-party software that does handle swfs, not vaporware like Moonlight.

  50. Martin Malek Says:
    June 9th, 2008 at 6:38 am

    This can be done on mobile devices by Scalado

  51. anoncowrd Says:
    June 11th, 2008 at 4:04 am

    yeah google maps does that without me having to install a new plugin, oh wait i’m on ubuntu i couldn’t install it even if i wanted to. I say epic fail for being so late with something that’s been around forever.

  52. yodaco Says:
    July 10th, 2008 at 5:38 am

    look… it doesnt realy matter what microsoft try to use to “SELL” us thier crapy software and OS… Nor does it matter that 9 times out of 10 the linux comunity has something up it sleeves to match it, if not better it.

    The only thing that matters is… Microsoft want your money… Linux Only Wants your help…

    so given the options PAY for windows OR Dont pay for linux… When both are potentialy offering similar packages… which would you choose.

    The truth is….
    i still us windows


  53. Eric Says:
    August 23rd, 2008 at 6:41 pm


    Learn all you can by reading the following article…

  54. Will Says:
    October 19th, 2008 at 9:31 pm

    To everyone complaining about browser crashes on this thread, do not forget the Hard Rock Memorabilia site was released to the world back in March 2008 as the very first live site running on Silverlight 2 *BETA* technology. And it was the first beta.

    Now that Silverlight 2 if officially released (Oct 14), and Microsoft has worked out most of it’s silly browser bugs, the memorabilia site is pretty dang reliable. It works perfectly fine on IE 6/7/8, Firefox 2/3 (PC and Mac!), Safari 2/3 (including Safari Windows!), Opera, and even the most recent dev build of Google Chrome!

  55. joz Says:
    November 6th, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    how can you people complain about it when the software is completely free!

  56. joz Says:
    November 6th, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    its not like it is actually intended to afend anybodyin any way

  57. justsometwat Says:
    April 9th, 2009 at 2:45 am

    what a bunch of dorks. honestly.

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  62. Clottey Says:
    June 11th, 2010 at 7:18 am

    How I wish Microsoft creates web technology that allows users with operating systems other than Windows. I like the new version of silverlight technology and it would probably be cool if it worked with Other Operating System. And also its pretty cool to create essay writing on this topic.

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