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Georgia Tech Scientist Creates 3D Scanner iPhone App

Trimensional app allows users to take and email 3D scans.

Grant Schindler, research scientist in Georgia Tech’s College of Computing, has created Trimensional, an app that allows users with an iPhone 4, iPad 2 or recent iPod Touch to take 3D scans of faces or other objects and share them by email. Now in the latest update, users can also e-mail animated videos of their 3-D models. For a few dollars more, artists and designers can even export their creation to CAD programs or 3D applications, such as Maya.

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 3D model that can be zoomed into, pan around and view from any angle.

“You can just have fun with it, or if you work with 3D models, you can use it professionally,” says Schindler, a research scientist in Tech’s School of Interactive Computing in the College of Computing.
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. But now, Trimensional has automated this process. The program works by taking every pixel and asking the same question using four different lighting conditions.

“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 3D model,” says Schindler.

In the first version of the app, which was released in January, users could send still images of their scans via email. This update allows the app to stitch different views of a model together into a movie or an animated gif and email.

The new pro upgrade for Trimensional (available as an in-app purchase) will also send a file that you can use any 3D program to open, so artists and other 3D professionals or hobbyists can now use this $5 app to perform a task that used to require hundreds of dollars worth of equipment.

“There are professional, $40,000 3D scanners out there; this won’t perform like those do, but for anything under $100, this is your best bet,” says Schindler.

In the future, he imagines people being able to do more with 3-D models.

Schindler is now working on a version for the Android operating system.

For more information, visit Georgia Tech’s College of Computing.

Sources: Press materials received from the company and additional information gleaned from the company’s website.

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