Amazing Software Turns Cheap Webcam Into Instant 3D Scanner
It’s called ProFORMA, or Probabilistic Feature-based On-line Rapid Model Acquisition, but it is way cooler than it sounds. The software, written by a team headed by Qi Pan, a student at the Department of Engineering at Cambridge University in England, turns a regular, cheap webcam into a 3D scanner.
Normally, scanning in 3D requires purpose-made gear and time. ProFORMA lets you rotate any object in front of the camera and it scans it in real time, building a fully 3D texture mapped model as fast as you can turn an object. Even more impressive is what happens after the scan: The camera continues to track the objsct in space and matches it’s movement instantly with the on-screen model.
It works by generating a 3D point cloud from the image coming through the camera and then uses some clever math to both ignore the occasional occlusion of the model by a hand and to work out where the surfaces are. Then things go over my head, involving a process called Delaunay tetrahedralisation to turn the 2D surfaces into a 3D model.
Like I said: clever math. But imagine, for a second, the uses. Forget Nintendo’s Mii avatars, for instance. Instead you could make a 3D version of yourself, or add your favorite household items into a game of Mario Kart. You could quite possibly hook this rig up to a 3D printer and make fast facsimiles of almost anything. And remember, this is all done using a single camera, just like the one that’s probably staring from the top of your laptop screen as you read this. I want to play with this right now.
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