TechnologyReview reports Microsoft researchers have created a piece of software that can build 3D models by overlapping snapshots taken by a regular digital camera or a cell phone camera. These 3D scans take up less bandwidth than a video and are also interactive. Pretty nice stuff.
"We want everybody with a cell phone or regular digital camera to be able to capture 3-D objects," says Eric Stollnitz, one of the Microsoft researchers who worked on the project.
To capture a car in 3-D, for example, a person needs to take a handful of photos from different viewpoints around it. The photos can be instantly sent to a cloud server for processing. The app then downloads a photo-realistic model of the object that can be smoothly navigated by sliding a finger over the screen. A detailed 360 degree view of a car-sized object needs around 40 photos, a smaller object like a birthday cake would need 25 or fewer.
If captured with a conventional camera instead of a cell phone, the photos have to be uploaded onto a computer for processing in order to view the results. The researchers have also developed a Web browser plug-in that can be used to view the 3-D models, enabling them to be shared online. "You could be selling an item online, taking a picture of a friend for fun, or recording something for insurance purposes," says Stollnitz. "These 3-D scans take up less bandwidth than a video because they are based on only a few images, and are also interactive."