Now you can zoom from thousands of meters away to see people’s facial expressions


Here is the brief story of an obscenely large picture. It is the brainchild of a setup called Jinkun Tech, or Bigpixel Technology Corporation, and it was taken from atop the Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai.

What it is not, contrary to chatter on social media this week, is some evil new Chinese satellite quantum technology.

It’s just a very, very big picture, and according to the company, more than 8 million people have explored it, and many more are about to.

The photo resolution, which is the toughest part to wrap one’s mind around, is reportedly 195 gigapixels.

Some context: a megapixel is one million pixels. The resolution of digital cameras and smartphones is often chopped up and measured in megapixels. For example, a 12-megapixel camera can produce images with 12 million total pixels. But, in this case, we’re talking about gigapixels. One gigapixel is 1 billion pixels.

Bigpixel reckons it is more than 2,000 more times precise than a photo captured from an ordinary, consumer-level camera, which makes this 360-degree snapshot of a surprisingly sunny Shanghai day the world’s third-biggest photo. Bigpixel says it’s Asia’s largest.

It is a collection of images that have been integrated over a few months using image-stitching technology.

Bigpixel says this is its first panorama with hundreds of billions of pixels. The result is an unearthly, uncanny, unnecessarily fearsome zoom — a zoom that takes you so close to the oblivious person on the street — in this case, in Shanghai — that, yes, you can literally see individual facial expressions.

The technology’s potential for covert surveillance also becomes quite obvious.

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