Blaise Agüera y Arcas reveals two innovative technologies: Seadragon and Photosynth. Both are about how we and our computers mutually produce, consume and interact with visual information. Both technologies are also suggestive of sweeping changes in our “visual ecosystem” over the next several years. The prerequisites for these changes—inexpensive CCDs, multiresolution, powerful computer vision algorithms, better bandwidth and processing power, graphics acceleration—have been steadily building up for many years. Here we will explore what can happen when these new capabilities converge with the collective effects of Web 2.0.
In 2004, Blaise Agüera y Arcas founded a company, Seadragon, to develop ideas in scalable architectures and UIs for interacting with massive visual information. He wrote software, raised funding, hired the engineering and management team, and was the principal author of the company's IP portfolio. Microsoft bought Seadragon at the beginning of 2006. Since joining Microsoft Live Labs, Agüera y Arcas has become the architect for Photosynth and as well as Seadragon. Outside Microsoft, he has applied computational techniques in a variety of fields, including neuroscience and history. In 2001, he received worldwide press coverage for his discovery, using computational methods, of the printing technology used by Johann Gutenberg, considered the inventor of movable type printing in the West. This technology differs markedly from later printing technologies, suggesting a reassessment of Gutenberg's traditional historical role. Agüera y Arcas’s work on early printing was the subject of a BBC Open University documentary, entitled “What Did Gutenberg Invent?”