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Feature Story

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Go behind the scenes and see the making of an image of the Boeing Next-Generation 737 that contains 17 billion pixels. Then, try out the interactive feature that allows you to explore the airplane as if you're standing right next to it.

A Gigaplane: a Boeing 737 shown in gigapixels (Video)

It's the highest-resolution image ever taken of a Boeing Next-Generation 737 airplane. The photo is so rich in detail it must be counted in gigapixels, which is 1,000 times the information of megapixels.

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Click on the image to explore the Boeing Next-Generation 737 as if you're standing right next to the airplane. The interactive feature allows you to move around and zoom in to see the airplane in stunning detail.

"What we're hoping to be able to achieve is basically life-sized details, said Greg Rattenborg of digital marketing firm [wire]stone. "So when you see a rivet ... on the aircraft, that's about the size of the rivet that will be on your computer screen."

[Wire]stone placed digital cameras on several robotic mounts known as a "GigaPan" to methodically capture more than 20,000 high-resolution images of a new 737-900ER for United Airlines. The 900ER is the largest and most fuel-efficient member of the best-selling Boeing 737 family.

The "GigaPan" method has been used by groups to capture stunning panoramas of the Dubai skyline, the Munich International Airport, and other locales. In the 737 photo shoot, Boeing and [wire]stone decided to take the technology to the next level by capturing every side of the airplane.

"What this technology allows us to do is bring people as close to the 737 as possible without standing right next to the airplane." Anthony Ponton, 737 brand manager

The agency then used computer software to stitch the photos together to form a 360-degree interactive view of the airplane.

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The new interactive feature highlights more than 70 features of the Boeing Next-Generation 737. You can click on each part - such as the runway turnoff and landing light shown above - to get a closer look and an explanation of its function.

"This is really the first time we've seen it used in anyway on an actual piece of equipment at this scale," said Rattenborg.

The idea is to let users zoom in on the hardware like the dorsal fin that increases the 737's lateral stability, the tail skid that allows shorter takeoffs or the anti-collision light embedded in the wingtip.

"What this technology allows us to do is bring people as close to the 737 as possible without standing right next to the airplane," said Anthony Ponton, 737 brand manager.

The interactive image, which contains 17 gigapixels, is available online with more than 70 features highlighted for people to explore, either for fun or work.

It will be great for "training and being able to help ground crews and be able to introduce people working on the plane to the aircraft," said Rattenborg.