Trimensional – a 3-D scanner smartphone application
Grant Schindler, a researcher from Georgia Tech’s College of Computing, managed to come up with a simplified version of a tool that used to cost hundreds of dollars a year ago into something that can be done with an app. Trimensional is the first app that allows users with an iPhone 4, iPad 2 or recent iPod Touch to take 3-D scans of faces or other objects. He is also developing a version for the Android operating system.
The program uses a technique that was originally designed in the 1980s, but required an expensive set up of lights, a still model and a lot of time. Trimensional works by using the iPhone’s screen to shine four different lighting patterns on the subject while also using the device’s front-facing camera to snap photos. It produces a full 3-D model that you can zoom into, pan around and view from any angle.
“You can just have fun with it, or if you work with 3-D models, you can use it professionally”, said Schindler, a research scientist in Georgia Tech’s School of Interactive Computing in the College of Computing. “If I take a scan of my face, the app asks ‘what does the image look like if I shine the light from the left side, what does it look like from the right side’, and so on. There’s one three-dimensional answer per pixel, and combining all those answers results in the full 3-D model.”
In the first version of the app, which was released in January, users could send still images of their scans via e-mail. This update allows the app to stitch different views of a model together into a movie or an animated gif and e-mail. The new pro upgrade for Trimensional (available as an in-app purchase) enables you to send a file that you can use in most of the popular 3-D program to open, and thus enable artists and other 3-D professionals or hobbyists can now use this $5 app to perform a task that used to require hundreds of dollars worth of equipment.
“Once we get scanners in everyone’s hands, you should be able to use these images for any use you can think of, replicating physical objects by sending your scans to a 3-D printer, or creating a perfect digital substitute to take your video calls when you’re not looking your best”, said Schindler. “Or you could put it on your World of Warcraft character, or use it in other games.”
Although it doesn’t perform as some of the current advanced software packages which can use algorithms to alter two dimensional images or even paintings into 3D, the Trimensional is pretty affordable and fun to play with.