Transform Your Photos Into 3-D Models

Software turns snapshots into three-dimensional souvenirs.

May 27, 2011, 6:57 PM

May 29, 2011— -- Let's face it, sitting next to your friends as they scroll through the same 40 images of their trip to Mt. Rushmore is a total snooze-fest. Feigning interest while they subject you to each smiling pose beneath George, Tom, Teddy and Abe is so boring its enough to turn you to stone.

Might you politely suggest Photofly to your shutterbug friends.

Next week, the design software company Autodesk will release Photofly software that can turn those tedious snapshots into a three-dimensional souvenir for the mantle, preserving your friends' memories as well as your sanity. And if your snapshooting friends are cheapskates, no worries - Photofly is available free of charge.

"We can automatically generate a 3-D mesh at extreme detail from a set of photos—we're talking the kind of density captured by a laser scanner," Vice President of Autodesk Labs, Brian Mathews told Technology Review.

However, unlike a laser scanner, the equipment needed to capture the 3-D rendering doesn't cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. Mathews says an overlapping set of approximately 40 digital point-and-shoot photos is enough to capture a person's head and shoulders in detailed 3-D.

After downloading the software, which will be available only for Windows computers, users can upload their photos to a cloud server for processing. After downloading the results, the 3-D renderings appear as a wire-frame model of the captured scene with realistic surface color and texture. Users can then send that model to a 3-D printing service, such as ShapeWays.

According to Mathews, models produced from a set of well-taken photos will be spatially accurate to within 1 percent or less.

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