"This is something that grows in complexity as people use it and whose benefits become greater and greater," said Aguera y Arcas during the spring TED convention demonstration.
Building a virtual model of the world is far from an original idea, but the way by which Photosynth has begun to go about it is very different from the strategy taken by recent world-creators Google Maps, Google Earth and Microsoft's Virtual Earth.
Google Map's newest feature, Street View, used camera vans and photo crews to systematically tour several major cities to allow users to view a photo-realistic panorama from any point on the streets. While far superior in efficiency and sheer volume, compared to Photosynth's approach, it is also quite limited.
"The kinds of experiences they give you are very different," said Photo Tourism co-creator Seitz. "Street Views is used as an extension of maps. … Right now you're restricted. You can't go onto the grounds of the Vatican or around Notre Dame."
In contrast to mass mapping's use of satellite imaging and mobile camera crews, Aguera y Arcas described Photosynth's expansion as a more subjective, "trickle up" effect as users' virtual world is built through their own experiences from the ground up.
"A byproduct of all of that is immensely rich virtual models of every interesting part of the earth collected not just from overhead flights and from satellite images and so on, but from the collective memory," said Aguera y Arcas during the TED demonstration.
"There's something empowering, something very democratic about being in control of that," said Seitz.
While the Photosynth team is being quiet about any other projects, suggestions are coming from all angles.
"There have been some creative ideas," said Snavely. "We've been contacted by everyone from biologists, who have photos of living creatures, to archaeologists with pictures of ancient sites."
MIT's Durand imagines the technology to be of great educational value.
"Geography teachers and history teachers would love to have access to those images," he said, "especially as you add the time dimension and see how things evolve."
Already thinking along those lines, for its latest project the Photosynth team collaborated with the BBC to create 3-D models of some of the most historic locations in Britain as part of the new BBC series "How We Built Britain." So far the collection includes six landmarks including the Ely Cathedral and Trafalgar Square.
The Photosynth team is tight-lipped about when the technology will be ready for commercial use, but claims that when it is, users will be able to upload their own photos and automatically recreate 3-D versions of their vacation experiences or even perfectly recreate their own home, inside and out.
Whether it will be used for education, science or a vast visual and social network, the only thing that is certain is that as the technology develops, the virtual world will grow as the real world seems to shrink smaller and smaller.