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App turns smartphones into 3D scanners


December 5, 2013

The app can be used to produce 3D portraits

The app can be used to produce 3D portraits

Most of us have gotten used to smartphones replacing long-established devices such as cameras and music players. Soon, however, they might be taking over the duties of something that is itself an emerging technology – the 3D scanner. Researchers at ETH Zurich have created an app that allows an ordinary smartphone to capture and display three-dimensional models of real-world objects, for subsequent finessing or even 3D printing.

The app reportedly works in both indoor and outdoor lighting conditions, including the low light often found in museums.

Users simply point the phone's camera at the desired object, then move the phone around the subject as needed, in order to capture it from a variety of angles. The app uses the phone's inertial sensors to detect when and by how much it's moving, and automatically snaps images accordingly.

All of the calculations take place on the spot, using the phone's GPU (graphics processing unit). Users can then view the digital model from a variety of angles, and go back to get additional shots of any parts of the subject that they missed. Not only are images captured, but the actual size of the subject is also recorded – definitely a handy feature, if the user plans on 3D-printing a copy.

The app is currently patent pending, and "can run on a wide range of current smartphones." If you just can't wait, though, you can already buy the Georgia Tech-designed Trimensional 3D scanning app for iOS.

The ETH Zurich app can be seen in use in the video below.

Source: ETH Zurich

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

I think that is way cool, especially since the price of 3-D printers seems to be coming down. Perhaps a step toward the day we have a replicator like on Star Trek or the holodeck from Star Trek.


Will it be available for Android?

Gregg Eshelman

I wonder if it can capture fingerprints? LE would be interested in a big way...

S Michael

Just another way for people to counterfeit objects and or get sued for copyright.

Trent Smith

"Just another way for people to counterfeit objects and or get sued for copyright.

Trent Smith"

What you meant to say was another way for people to exercise their "fair use" rights, right?

Rann Xeroxx

Good luck with the patent - I saw this at least a decade ago already.

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