Use your smartphone as a 3-D scanner

January 18, 2016 | 09:36
Use your smartphone as a 3-D scanner
Use your smartphone as a 3-D scanner
Compared to 3-D printers, 3-D scanners are remarkably expensive. From your poor attempts at object photography with a smartphone or a digital camera you may have discovered (inadvertedly) that casting a series of light patterns on an object and having a camera capture the resulting images, the ways the patterns deform over and around an object might be used to render a 3-D image! But for the technique to work, the pattern ‘projector’ and the camera have to precisely synchronized, which requires specialized and expensive hardware. Bummer?

Together with his students, Professor Gabriel Taubin at Brown's School of Engineering, discovered that the structured light technique can be done without synchronization between projector and camera, meaning an off-the-shelf camera can be used with an untethered structured light flash. The camera just needs to have the ability to capture uncompressed images in burst mode (several successive frames per second), which many DSLR cameras and smartphones can do.
After the camera captures a burst of images, an algorithm calibrates the timing of the image sequence using the binary information embedded in the projected pattern. Then it goes through the images, pixel by pixel, to assemble a new sequence of images that captures each pattern in its entirety. Once the complete pattern images are assembled, a standard structured light 3D reconstruction algorithm can be used to create a single 3-D image of the object or space.

 
Image courtesy of Taubin Lab / Brown University

The discovery could be a significant step in making precise and accurate 3-D scanning cheaper and more accessible, we agree with Taubin.
 
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