If you haven't heard about the Global Connection Project and its Gigapixel Panoramas, I highly recommend that you check it out. I first heard about it on an NPR radio show called "The World". Using a robotic platform called the Gigapan, you can take very large, detailed panoramas using a standard digital camera.
While it's pretty cool technology (and not the first method seen to create large panoramas), what really interested me is that the project is planning to release a consumer version. According to the interview, the public may see this consumer version in March for about $100. They also plan to release an open source reference design if you want to build it (or improve it) on your own.
In addition to the robotic device that is set up on your tripod, the Global Connection Project has created software that stitches the images together. A Flash-based viewer lets you pan around the image, zoom in and see tremendous amounts of detail.
An earlier version of this technology was used by the Mars Exploration Rovers. The panoramas created from the Mars landscape allowed for a much richer way to experience the red planet.
Global Connection is a joint project of Carnegie Mellon University, NASA, Google, and National Geographic. The project's long-term goal is to help us learn about and meet our neighbors across this globe, and learn about our planet itself.
For more information about the Global Connection Project, click here.
To go straight to the Gigapixel Panoramas, with some great samples, click here.
To listen to the interview on The World, you can find the audio here.