There is no flux capacitor, Delorean or Doc Emmett Brown. But researchers from Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute have created a platform for the web that allows time travel -- at least of the virtual sort. 

The researchers at the Institute have used browser technology to create GigaPan Time Machine, which enables viewers to explore gigapixel-scale, high-resolution videos and image sequences by panning or zooming in and out of the images while simultaneously moving back and forth through time.

The technology is more than a time lapse film. It allows people to explore both space and time, allowing viewers to see how something changes from different angles.

Already the researchers have put up a few examples. They have put up time machine videos for watching people put up a carnival, a computer simulation of the early universe unfurl and plants growing.

With GigaPan Time Machine, you can simultaneously explore space and time at extremely high resolutions, Illah Nourbakhsh, associate professor of robotics and head of the CREATE Lab, said in a statement. Science has always been about narrowing your point of view -- selecting a particular experiment or observation that you think might provide insight. But this system enables what we call exhaustive science, capturing huge amounts of data that can then be explored in amazing ways.

The technology behind the GigaPan Time Machine is GigaPan Technology, which was developed by the CREATE Lab and NASA. It can capture a mosaic of hundreds or thousands of digital pictures and stitch those frames into a panorama that be interactively explored via computer.

The researchers brought the time element into it by capturing image mosaics repeatedly at set intervals. It then stitched those images across both space and time to create a video in which each frame can be hundreds of millions, or even billions of pixels.

The time-lapse technology is enabled by HTML5, the latest HyperText Market Language, which makes it visible on Google's Chrome and Apple's Safari only. Using HTML5, the researchers developed algorithms and software architecture that make the image's personalized transition, either from angle to angle or in regards to zooming in and out,  seamless.

We're really pushing the browser technology to the limits, Randy Sargent, CREATE Lab scientist, said in a statement.

Carnegie Mellon has included instructions on how to capture time-lapse images using the GigaPan technology at http://timemachine.gigapan.org. The researchers behind the GigaPan Time Machine are expecting scientists to use the framework for exploratory purposes, such as visualizing big events.

Credit: Carnegie Mellon