Microsoft Wants to Turn Any Smartphone Into a 3D Scanner

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Microsoft Wants to Turn Any Smartphone Into a 3D Scanner

Microsoft Research, the research arm of the Redmond-based company. has showcased a number of interesting technologies over the past few years. On Monday, it showed off yet another such project. Called MobileFusion, it's an app Microsoft is working on for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone smartphones that would turn their cameras into a 3D scanner.

The research arm of Microsoft said that MobileFusion will allow users to shoot sequential images of an object -- developing a 3D image of it -- which can be later turned into a 3D model. But where will you use it? The idea is to make a replica of all the interesting things you see across you. For instance, if you see an interesting sculpture at a museum, you can take images of it and later produce its 3D-printed replica.

"What this system effectively allows us to do is to take something similar to a picture, but it's a full 3D object," said Peter Ondruska, a Ph.D. candidate at Oxford University who worked on the project. This sounds enticing because, as Microsoft noted, one doesn't need an extra hardware to take 3D images.

(Also see: Bevel Is a 3D Camera for Any Smartphone)

This would allow people in remote locations to capture their surroundings using their existing smartphones. The research team noted that these images are high-quality enough to have applications in augmented reality video games as well.

Pushmeet Kohli and Shahram Izadi are the face behind this project. The two have previously worked on a similar project called Kinect Fusion. Kinect Fusion allowed users to build 3D models of their bodies, houses etc. Unlike MobileFusion, however, Kinect required a user to have a PC and other dedicated hardware around while take an object's 3D image. Something, which as you can imagine, isn't convenient to do.

The researchers are currently working on perfecting this technology and its compatibility. You might not want to get too excited as Microsoft Research isn't giving any guarantee that it would release the app to public. The researchers, however, insist a public release is the ultimate goal of the project.


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