Now, your smartphone can also be 3-D scanner

By: | Published: December 23, 2015 2:37 PM

What if you could turn your smartphone into a 3-D scanner? Now, with this algorithm, you actually can.

What if you could turn your smartphone into a 3-D scanner? Now, with this algorithm, you actually can.

The Brown University researchers have come up with an algorithm that may help bring high-quality 3-D scanning capability to off-the-shelf digital cameras and smartphones.

Researcher Gabriel Taubin said that the 3-D scanners on the market today are either very expensive or are unable to do high-resolution image capture, so they can’t be used for applications where details are important.

Most high-quality 3-D scanners capture images using a technique known as structured light. A projector casts a series of light patterns on an object, while a camera captures images of the object. The ways in which those patterns deform over and around an object can be used to render a 3-D image. But for the technique to work, the pattern projector and the camera have to precisely synchronized, which requires specialized and expensive hardware.

The algorithm Taubin and his students have developed, however, enables the structured light technique to be done without synchronization between projector and camera, which means an off-the-shelf camera can be used with an untethered structured light flash. The camera just needs to have the ability to capture uncompressed images in burst mode (several successive frames per second), which many DSLR cameras and smartphones can do.

Taubin added that they think this could be a significant step in making precise and accurate 3-D scanning cheaper and more accessible.

The researchers presented a paper describing the algorithm last month at the SIGGRAPH Asia computer graphics conference.

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