When we talk about 3D scanners, usually we’re referring to expensive, tripod or robot-assisted devices that cost several thousand dollars. Those days may be in the past, however, as researchers at ETH Zurich have developed an app that will allow any smartphone to accurately scan and display models in 3D.
As of writing this, scientists at the University’s Computer Vision and Geometry (CVG) Lab have yet to give their app a name, but they have shared a number of details about their patent pending application. According to researchers, the new app uses a smartphone’s camera to continuously scan objects in front of its retina. As the user moves their phone around an object the app uses the device’s native inertial sensors to select part of the image required to build a 3D surface. What’s more, as a user scans an object a visual representation of their model appears, allowing anyone to see which areas of the model need to be stitched with further pans of the phone’s camera.
“Only two years ago, such a software [could] only run on massive computers. We were able to shrink processes down [to] smartphone level and make them highly efficient”, says Marc Pollefeys, professor at the CVG Lab.
Once scanned, the CVG app will create a file that can be visualized on a phone, added to augmented reality applications or exported for 3D prints. But aside from making a really cool trinket, CVG engineers have effectively reduced 3D scanner entry prices and tossed out the complex setups associated with most 3D scanners.