Microsoft has officially launched Photosynth, a truly impressive new application that takes a collection of regular photographs, analyzes them for similarities, and then reconstructs the scene in a 3D environment that can be smoothly navigated by other users.

Microsoft Live Labs developed the technology in tandem with researchers at the University of Washington over the past two years, but it wasn't until today that Photosynth launched - albeit in beta form. The service currently supports Windows XP and Vista only, but Mac support is said to be in the works.

Anyone can upload photos to create their own "synths," which will be public and visible to all. The system can't yet create a synth from a collection of pre-existing photos uploaded by others, but such capability could be on the way considering Microsoft teased with the idea of connecting Photosynth to an image service like Flickr so as to create 3D models of popular tourist destinations - and I wouldn't be surprised to see it integrated into Virtual Earth and taking advantage of geo-tagged photos soon.

If you want to see Photosynth in action without investing the time to create your own synth, Microsoft has several nice examples available including one of the Stonehenge and the Taj Mahal.