Salt Lake Temple in 3D with Microsoft Photosynth

If you’ve been following me for a while you know that I like computer graphics.  I’ve worked in the industry for almost a decade, and enjoy new technologies that make computing a more visual experience.  You’ve seen my 3D model of the Salt Lake Temple for Google Earth, and the Google Street Views of the temples along the Wasatch Front.  Well, here is one more cool technology to add to the list.

Microsoft has built some free software called Photosynth with which you can take many photographs of an object or place, and the software will automatically overlay them together seamlessly and construct a 3D model from their similarities.  You can then fly around the object or place in real-time and zoom in to see details in the photographs.  It’s fascinating technology.  See a fuller definition here.  It’s been in beta for a while now, but has just been released for anyone to make their own “synths.”  A designer from the Church has picked up on it. 

Aaron Barker, one of the Church’s designers, has created a “photosynth” of the Salt Lake Temple, as reported on yesterday.  It is only 58% “synthy,” which means that you cannot go all the way around the temple in 360°, which can make it difficult to navigate, but it does have about a 200° viewable space of the Salt Lake Temple (the east, north, and west sides).  It was built using 117 photos of the temple, and there are many detailed ones too that you can zoom in on and see close-up.

Because Photosynth is so graphics intensive it does require a browser plugin and an application installed on your computer in order to see a synth.  But I guarantee it is worth it.  They are free.  To install it go here.

I have embedded the synth of the Salt Lake Temple below.  Or you can see it here on Photosynth’s website.

I echo Aaron’s excitement about the possibilities of this technology.  Think if you could see a synth of any temple in the world, fly around it, and see the details, all while online.  Think of the Church historical sites you could virtually visit like Carthage jail, the Sacred Grove, Nauvoo, and Palmyra.  It’s going to be interesting to see where this technology goes, particularly if and when they build a social community around it and allow any person to add photos to synths.


  1. Posted August 26, 2008 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    Bummer. No Mac support.

  2. Posted August 26, 2008 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    Lol… yup. That’s Microsoft for ya.

  3. Posted August 28, 2008 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    I thoroughly enjoy your site and have learned a bunch about temples. I am reading the new book by Skinner right now and enjoying that as well. The books by Brown are also excellent and I want to get my hands on Madsen’s new Temple book eventually.

    I just posted at my blog ( about a conditional promise made by a couple apostles to saints in India that if they are faithful they will one day have a temple. I thought you might be interested as this is geared towards temples and you seem to have fascination with temples as do I.

    Anyways, keep the good stuff coming!
    thanks for all your efforts.

  4. Posted August 28, 2008 at 7:51 am | Permalink


    Thanks! Skinner’s book was excellent (Temple Worship). I’m working through Bill Hamblin’s Solomon’s Temple: Myth and History right now, and it is great.

    I will check out your blog. Thanks for giving me the heads up, and for your kind words.

  5. Posted August 28, 2008 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Joel Dehlin, the Chief Information Officer for the Church, also has a writeup about this new technology on his blog here.

    I think I might try to do a photosynth of the Mt. Timpanogos temple.

  6. sean
    Posted September 1, 2008 at 12:04 am | Permalink

    Hey, so I am doing my own photosynth of Temple Square as well. Though I REALLY wish we could add photos to existing synths right now cause I’m usually trying about 600 photos-800 photos per time. I just haven’t got the north side of the Temple really. My latest is 69% synthy, I’ll leave it for a while on the site so you can see it. The Musical Genius Gmail com is my email with no spaces etc. I’d be willing to give most of my photos up just to see some good synthing… Mine isn’t all that amazing…but I’m committed to it

  7. Posted September 1, 2008 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    I can’t find your photosynth of Temple Square. Can you share a link to it?

  8. sean
    Posted September 1, 2008 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    Musicofangels is my name on the photosynth site… I haven’t done well with my synth yet. Even though it is 69% it isn’t really great or anything. I’m using a DSLR 10.2 MP Nikon D60.

    This has just been a test to get an idea and I won’t be able to seriously take pictures until Wednesday when I will really go all day to take some awesome pictures. I figure now I understand a little more about how these are synthed together. I REALLY wish I could tell photosynth where certain points line up, but for now I’ll just take some better pictures and a LOT MORE of them from every angle and direction I can. I have a 16GB, 2 2GB, and 2 1GB cards (20GB) which I am going to try to fill on wednesday from as many angles as possible and as many closer angles between them so that it will reckognize them better. I haven’t had luck with trees getting in the way. My first synth has a lot of the same or similar angles so it synths really well with similar pictures but there are usually a few chunked together. The front is a chunk of 30 pictures and the back is a chunk of 30 picutres and so on. I think the more I really get all angles on this and all angles in between, the better it will all synth. That sounds like a very obvious point, I just didn’t realize how many pictures I would really have to take for it to like the Temple. is the link, but LDS Temple should find it in the search.

  9. Posted September 1, 2008 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the additional info. I look forward to seeing your next synth! From what I’ve read, a lot of overlap helps the software find the same points. I made my first synth today from some objects lying around in my home. It was 100% synthy. I hope I am as successful when I do something bigger like the temple. I’m thinking it won’t be so easy.

    Let me know when you’ve got your next synth online.

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