Microsoft new technology turns every smartphone into a 3D scanner

Microsoft new technology turns every smartphone into a 3D scanner

During Innovation Day 2013 at Microsoft Research Asia on Oct. 30, researchers demonstrated how to create 3D images using a mobile phone.

"Nowadays, 3D printing is very popular," says Jiawei Gu, with Richard Cai and Zhiwei Li one of three Microsoft Research scientists demonstrating the capabilities of the project. "When people want to fabricate something, determining what kind of thing is a key problem. Our technology can enable people to use the mobile phone in their pocket to scan anything and make it real."

Creating and recreating 3D imagery quickly, inexpensively, and simply, has been a goal in the computing community for some time. Traditional solutions to 3D modeling require either expensive devices or professional skills, and therefore are not suitable for common users. The goal of this project is to lower the barriers of 3D reconstruction.

Microsoft researchers worked on a multi-view, stereo-based solution which only requires a regular optical camera. To build a 3D model of an object, a user only needs to take pictures using the mobile device from a couple of different viewpoints. In order to improve the quality of reconstructed 3D models, researchers have developed multi-view object co-segmentation and continuous depth-map optimization technologies.


In their demonstration, researchers displayed prototypes of Window Phone/slate apps, through which anyone can easily generate 3D models within a minute.

"With a phone or tablet, as long as you have an RGB camera, you can create a 3D image," Cai says. "The computational cost is heavy, so we do the reconstruction in the cloud, and then, after the computation is done, we transfer the data back to the user's device, in around half a minute - just a simple scan, and you've got 3D content."

"If you have scanned somebody's face," Gu says, "you can print out a cup with the face, for yourself or as a gift for a friend. If you go to a furniture store and see something nice, you can use a mobile phone to scan the furniture and put it into your home environment to see if it would fit".

Cai said their next step is to improve the procedure to complete the 3D scanning procedure in around 10 seconds.

This research will make gaming, 3D printing, and sharing easier and more accessible for many people.


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