3d scanning with just a digital camera

Computers are able to extract a lot of information from a photograph. People generally just look at a picture and see colors, but there is a lot more data contained in a photograph besides just colors. Cool software can determine depths and distances of objects in photographs based on the intensity of light at each pixel.

In the picture above, you can see thumbnails across the bottom of some of the photos I took.  In the main area, you see a mesh automatically created from the photographs, and the cameras show the calculated camera positions.   The mesh is both the MakerBot in the center, as well as the desks, wall, floor, arcade cabinet, and couch in the background.

It works kind of like radar.   If you have enough digital photographs of an object or a scene from enough angles, this cool free software by Autodesk called Photofly can construct a 3d model of whatever it is you are taking pictures of.   Photofly lets you export your 3d model into a variety of formats, and you can even upload the file to www.shapeways.com which is a 3d printing website.

Shapeways can take this 3d file created solely from photographs and turn it into a real live plastic, glass or metal copy of the original object. I tested this on Friday, and here is the first video of the 3d model I made. I took 99 photographs of the MakerBot, and uploaded them with Photofly, and that’s it! No more work! How easy is 3d modeling now, eh?

Here’s a video flyby of the model. Not so nice but you get the idea. With a better camera, more photos and better lighting, you’re able to get an amazing replica of the object.