An app that turns smartphones into accurate 3D scanners is in development

December 10, 2013
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3d scanning app (1)

Two-dimensional images are so last century. Researchers from Switzerland’s Federal Institute of Technology are working to add the third dimension to images taken with regular smartphone cameras.

The research team developed a technology that makes highly accurate 3D scanning as simple as recording a video. The user simply points the camera to the object, allowing the app to collect data points. The app taps into the phone’s motion sensors to determine when to collect new data points and where to place them in space. All the user needs to do is scan the object from various angles, no input required.

This isn’t the first technology that achieves a form of 3D scanning on mobile devices, but it’s probably the most accurate and powerful yet. Unlike other solutions that upload data to a server, the app processes data points on the device, making use of its GPU’s parallel computing capabilities. It all happens in real time, so users can see the areas where more data points are needed to complete the model.

According to the research team, the technology works well even in low-light and doesn’t require any special setup, unlike other 3D scanning tools.

Once the model is captured, it can be visualized in 3D or fed into a 3D printer to create a physical reproduction of the scanned object. The team used museum exhibits as examples, but the app can also be used to take 3D pics of human subjects. With an online service like Shapeways, you could even upload the model directly from the device and have a figurine delivered to your home in just a few days.

The patent-pending technology is still in an early stage, but with more processing power, more accurate sensors, and better cameras launching every day, it’s easy to conceive a future where mobile 3D scanning is a common feature on our smartphones.

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