Microsoft has put a preview of its photo-management application Photosynth online so that people can test-drive the new service.

The preview is an early version of the application, so it may have kinks and bugs, according to Microsoft technical fellow Gary Flake, speaking at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco.

In a demo, he and another member of Live Labs showed how Photosynth took a set of photos snapped in different places and used algorithms to blend them into a seamless, fluid, high-resolution 3D image. Users could immerse themselves in the image, zooming in and out, changing angles and panning around.

The demo showed outside shots, like a composite image of the Piazza San Marco in Italy, as well as an interior image of an art gallery. Photosynth automatically analyses the photos in a collection and 'mashes them up', taking into account their different angles, resolutions and similarities to create the blended image.

Microsoft is now trying to figure out the different ways and scenarios in which Photosynth can be used, and it hopes people who try out the preview will offer suggestions, Flake said. He is founder and director of Live Labs, a Microsoft research unit focused on internet technologies.

The site isn't yet ready to accept photos from people. It contains pre-loaded collections of photos taken by Microsoft employees. The Photosynth preview is also only available to IE (Internet Explorer) users. Non-IE surfers are told that the development team wants to extend support to other browsers and to check the Photosynth blog for updates.