A 3D model of Rome's Colosseum has been recreated in one day using millions of pictures from photo-sharing websites such as Flickr on a modified home PC.
A team of researchers from the University of North Carolina and the Swiss university ETH-Zurich created the system, and they believe it may help preserve heritage sites, ensuring they don't end up swamped by tourists.
Microsoft has previously demonstrated the technique of using millions of photos to recreate detailed scenes with its PhotoSynth technology.
Now a technique built by researchers at the University of Washington also aims to recreate famous sites.
According to professor Marc Pollefey, these other systems needed powerful clusters of computers to perform the necessary image analysis, but his team used a home PC, albeit one equipped with four powerful graphics cards.
Pollefey said the cards were the key to being able to do the huge number of calculations necessary, and the first task was to identify pictures on Flickr tagged with the word "Rome".
A basic image analysis tool then created groups of photographs that had captured the same image - the west side of the Colosseum, for example.
By analysing how the object appeared from different viewing angles and distances, a rough 3D model of the object could be created.
They then used detailed analysis of each pixel within the group of photos to study the target object's surface.
"This allowed us to recreate incredibly detailed models of the sites," the BBC quoted him as saying.
As well as making eye-catching virtual models, the system can also highlight where tourists tend to congregate to snap the main attractions.
"So you can also identify other locations where you can get great shots of the same landmark," he added.